Not The End of An Era

96 Comments

In the summer of 1977, at one of the biggest political rallies ever seen at the Brigade Parade ground, a diminutive bald-headed man in a spotless white kurta and dhoti, declared–’As long as the people remain with us, no one will be able to efface us.’ [Source]. The sea of humanity roared back, believing in the ability of the interlocutor to bring ‘change’—change that could be believed in

On a cold January in 2010, the same man took his last journey. The mood, as Hindustan Times reports, was markedly different. Glaringly so.

But the crowd that gathered outside Advanced Medicare & Research Institute, the  hospital where Basu was admitted on January 1, seemed smaller than the one that had gathered for his acolyte Subhas Chakraborty a few months ago.

At 3:05 in the afternoon, when the hearse carrying Basu’s shrunk frame emerged from the hospital, the crowd shouted “Jyoti Basu zindabad.” It failed  to turn into a roar, one befitting the stature of the man whom they had voted for a record successive five times in office.

As  the  24-car  convoy wailed and roared through Salt Lake, Basu’s address for the 20 years, the calm neighbourhood maintained its stiff upper lip. None lined the houses on either side of the route, nor was a curious bystander in sight.

Just across the road from the hospital soccer-crazy people were going to Salt Lake stadium, where the FIFA world cup trophy was on display.

A couple of labourers kept hammering the boards of a make shift gate at the stadium with a loud and continuous thud.

Some youngsters even confessed to have stopped by to catch a glance of filmstar Mithun Chakravarty who had come to the hospital at noon.

Kolkata, the city of emotions, had failed to open up its heart for the man who was its most famous resident for decades

Jyoti Basu had been effaced. The people remained no longer with him.

It is difficult for someone like me, who grew up in the shadow of his rule, to remain unemotional about Jyoti Basu. His name would be taken when the power went out. So would it be taken when stuck in a CPM maha-micheel (grand procession)-induced traffic jam or at home during a ‘spontaneous’ Bandh. As it would be invoked every day in the morning when looking over the newspaper, eyes running over stories of flight of investment capital, police malfeasance or while hearing infuriating stories of deserving candidates being passed over in academia and administration because they did not belong to the ‘party’. This perhaps explains why, barring a few exceptions, the coverage of Jyoti Babu’s death has been so negative (an example here and another here), that is even more surprising given our cultural  proclivity for speaking softly about those that have passed on.

However in the middle of all the angst and villification, one would do well to remember that it was not Jyoti Basu who physically blocked the thoroughfares during work or who stayed at home, snoozing happily during a Bandh day. It was not Jyoti Basu who, overwhelmingly voted for his party, year after year. While it would be easy to say ‘CPM rigged elections’ the truth remains that for three decades, the CPM genuinely had the overwhelming mandate of the people of Bengal. It was they who validated everything Jyoti Basu did.

There is no getting around the fact that Jyoti Basu’s reign, as supreme and uncontested as it was, persisted only because he managed to tap into something very close to the heart of his subjects. And that was the overtly  emotional core of the Bengali, the romanticization of poverty and passionate support for those perceived as underdogs. Some leaders bring out the best in their people. Jyoti-Babu unfortunately brought out the worst.

People not of the state would perhaps marvel at how much of Basu’s speeches concerned Cuba, US imperialistic designs, Palestine and Israel, CIA plots to destabilize the country and the evil designs of the capitalist class and how eagerly people lapped it up, quite oblivious to the decrepitude of his neighbourhood or the fact that there had been no development in the state for years. Calling himself Sarboharar neta or the leader of the dispossessed, Basu was able to spin Bengal’s poverty as a bizarre ‘badge of honor’ —capitalists avoided the state because here, we people, principled and ‘awake’ as we are, do not put up with their exploitative shit and Bengalis are jobless because the Center is furthering the World Bank’s /Dr. Evil’s agenda.

And people bought this. Hook, line and sinker.

Encroachers on private land became revolutionary heroes, our local Bangali Sandanistas.

Illegal Bangladeshi migrants were excused with the “Oh they are poor people crossing the border to serve as plumbers, masons and odd-jobs-men. Surely we cannot be as dis-compassionate as to slam the door in their faces”.

CPM goons running unlicensed shops that sprouted on city footpaths, forcing people to walk on roads and blocking genuine shops, came to be glorified as ‘poor people just trying to make a living.’ with any attempt to displace them being perceived as ‘big business influencing public decision-making’.

Of course Basu’s reign was not built on just touchy-feely. It was a masterful enterprise built on the infiltration of the party into every aspect of the administration and the democratization of corruption whereas everyone in the party was allowed to benefit from the fruits of power, no one too much that it became an embarrassment and no one too little that he felt slighted.  And when the ‘soft’ approach did not work, there was always some other means available to make people see the party way.

Another of Basu’s pillars of support was that he was a bhodrolok, classy and understated, not crude and crass. Bengalis felt pride that our Chief Minister, unlike his fellow chief ministerial colleagues, did not have hair sticking out his nostrils, knew which wine went with lobster,  was impeccably turned out  in white dhoti and kurta, did not play chaddi-phad Holi, did not get weighed in gold at public functions and did not expect ministers to roll on the ground and touch his feet as a gesture of obeisance. Now chief ministers who expected their sycophants to write their names in blood may have been doing a better job at administering than our man, but that was irrelevant for Basu’s constituents.

Of course in conversations, people grumbled about Basu, made jokes about his summer trips to London and the Bengal Lamp scandal with the rider that such small things happen in politics—at least our Jyoti-babu does not take kickbacks in millions from arms contractors or get caught smuggling watches.

The first major blow to Basu’s emotional connect with his subjects happened during the ill-fated Operation Sunshine, an attempt to clean up the hawkers who had illegally set up semi-permanent structures on the footpaths forcing people to walk on the road for years, causing traffic snarl-ups and accidents. Concentrated primarily in Sealdah and Gariahat, two places coincidentally where there were powerful Congress hawker’s unions, it was a PR disaster for Basu. As bulldozers razed to the ground illegal constructions, people were aghast, not at the fact that such operations had been allowed to continue for years but because their beloved Jyoti Basu was behaving like a capitalist, kicking the stomachs of poor people.

It was at this point of time, with the game on the line, that a champion went for the ball. While the police backed by CPM muscle laid siege to Gariahat crossing (I stayed nearby so I saw this firsthand) and with the Congress, typically outnumbered and vacillating, one woman rushed right into the action almost daring the police and the CPM to bring her down. Who was this courageous lady in white, standing up for the underdogs and rushing into the paths of bulldozers, the same lady who had her head split open by CPM goons years before, undeterred and brave?

Bengal was to find out soon.

Mamata-didi, Jyoti Basu’s bete noire, became his biggest disciple in terms of following in exactly his footsteps. From then on, it was she who had the inside track to the Bengali heart faithfully regurgitating the rhetoric and disruptive mode of agitation that had served Basu so well in his struggling days with the Bangla Congress and SS Ray. With Basu’s successor Buddhadeb’s attempt to at least partially break with the Jyotian tradition and bring investment, development and other cusswords into the state, Mamata’s Jyoti Basu avatar became even more potent. There was one aspect in which she lagged—-she lacked Basu’s urbane educated appeal (which is very important in Bengal). She realized this and that explains her much lampooned ‘PhD from East Georgia’ (link), her attempts to sing “Aaye Mere Bhoton Ke Logon” in her “My bhoice is bhary choked” appearance on Saregama and her adventures in poetry [Link], efforts that would make Wordsworth ‘stop here and gently pass’ (Sample: Until and unless we change such politics, Politics will be lost in its own whirlpool of politics).

But then with Nandigram and Singur and with the total endorsement given to her by worthies like Mahasweta Devi and other assorted intellectuals, Didi has filled up that lacunae.

She is now finally ‘there’. Ready to step into the shoes of the man who, with absolutely no democratic challenge to his authority, for twenty-three continuous years ruled a state. A state that has still not changed its fundamental character.

And so while one may think that an era has ended, the truth remains that it is just beginning. Again.

Jyoti Basu is dead. Long live Jyoti Basu.

About these ads

96 thoughts on “Not The End of An Era

  1. i don’t remember much of political moves of jyoti basu era but i always respected him for one simple reason. till date other than die-hard-CPI(M) fans I haven’t met anyone who praises Jyoti Basu from bottom bottom of their heart. still this man reigned for more than two decades!!! may be he was a great maneuverer of vote banks, then in that case i respect him for that. you obviously need more than just skills and a brilliant mind to rule over so many people, for so long!
    Bengal has lost its glory and if we consistently keep accusing only one person or one party for all then doesn’t it make us look more silly? i mean if all of know who is the culprit and whats his modus operandi then why didn’t anyone do anything to stop him or the party?
    No point blaming others, we did enough of coffee house adda and gnawing of netaji’s supernatural ability of return-of-the-dead. bengal really lacks a leader. high school history book (i’m talking NCERT not WBSEB) is full of leaders from bengal -raja ram mohan roy, bankimchandra, vivekananda, master da, khudiram (man they gave me some tough time :roll: ) it seems that all the great bengali’s were born at the same time and now it’s quota is over. other than ganguly there is simply no one else who can be considered to have any potential as national leader. it’s because of our mentality- most of the people are happy with their 9to5 job and weekly union meeting which ensures the job for rest of their life and beyond. and who beg to differ are just out of the state!!!

    PS: i think i am the only hope now.
    I’ll be back. (terminator style :mrgreen:)

  2. Excellent, excellent post, Arnab. I may have a slightly different view of Mamatadi’s recent politics or supposed impending reign over Bengal, but that takes nothing away from your post.

  3. Should have happened many many years ago. But you are correct. The people are to be blamed too. Bengal got exactly what it deserved.

  4. Very Insightful article…I cannot help but feel exactly the same as GreatBong..It seems 2010 will be like 1978..Preparing for the Advent/Rerun of an extended Nightmare..Afternoons in mofussils will be still marked by a few cycles and motorcycles plying ont the sun parched roads and the fuchkawalas ferrying their stands to he nearest loveparks for the brisk business early evening..I can recite hundreds of scenes like this from the mofussils which embodies the stunted flow of time in Bengal and Lal Jhanda is more than partly to blame for it ..Eventhough I am petrified when the right wing parties toe a hard line , i cannot help but marvel at their ability to get things done .Case to the point–How swiftly the 66 BaE Hawk(Quite befitting name ain’ it?) deal was sanctioned and how long (i guess around 4-5 years) UPA is dithering over the MRCA deal..Good thing is Lockheed Martin dangled the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter carrot in front of us provided we go for F-16..BJP’s headlining project Golden Quadri/East-West reinforced in the people’s hearts and minds that this givernment meant business when it comes to development..Its their hardline anti-muslim post godhra image that let them down …And Vajpayees’ comments in Goa broke everyone’s heart who belived that this man just cannot give into communalism..Mumbai Pune Expressway happened under Sena It was Sena who fast tracked Sealink project and I donot need to talk about Gujarat under Modi (But ultimately its a monumental failure of the Indian democracy thhat that man is holding public office) I havenot still lost hope in Congress..I hope they pull off the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor..If its executed it would be a mega feat rivalling the Three Girges Dam or the International Space Station..Luminaries like MMS, Jaykant Ramesh, Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram keeps the dream alive

    Great Bong I have a request I throughly enjoy your read on Islamic terrorism but have you ever written in your blog regarding Post-Godhra and Anti Muslim communalsim( Only thing I can find is your reference to Post-Godhra violence in your review of Hotel Rwanda)

    GreatBong one

  5. I really like GB’s diplomatic manner of calling a spade a spade. I too would like to offer my homage to the departed comrade by reminding readers to read this article they should not miss: Destroyer of West Bengal

    @yourfan2 who wrote: “Bengal got exactly what it deserved.”

    Bengal is more important, more loftier than a bunch of stupid people who voted CPM or Mamata. West Bengal is what we have left of the glory of that was Bengal – in civilization, in science and spirituality, in art and literature. The Eastern three-quarters of Bengal is already going down the toilet (and under the Bay of Bengal too, if nature has its way in the form of rising sea-levels).

    And now what, bro? Do we let the last vestiges of this glorious Bengal disappear because these jokers made some stupid mistakes and “got what they deserved”? I think Bengal is too precious, too valuable, too important to write off. Let us do what we can to support it, defend it and allow it to blossom to the best possible extent. Will you join hands with me to secure Bengal’s future?

  6. @Shaswata Panja

    So, the BJP’s not good enough for your vote even though they have delivered in 5 years? And the Congress gets your vote because they have delivered nothing during the past 50 years? Wah bhai Wah !

    What some people term as “Anti Muslim communalsim” is otherwise defined by us natives as the “struggle of the indigenous Hindus of the Indian sub-continent fighting back to retain what is left of their land and civilisation against the global Ummah’s relentless onslaught to wipe out the natives that has been ongoing for the past 1400 years.” Sorry buddy, but it appears that these underdog natives are not going down without a fight.

  7. Yes my bad, I didnot look into the blog carefully, I have just found out GreatBong’s opinion on Godhra and associated stuffs and events..I am for the record not a Hindu-hating-secularist-just-to-be-fashionable. Like GreatBong said in his article its very important to keep things in perspective without launching into “genocide” crying Hyperbole..One thing that amazes me is though the non-prevalence of hard and fast death and rape figures in the mainstream media regarding the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus in Kashmir

  8. @Sashwata
    I got that from your first post. In any case, if you want to discuss data on violence between religious communities, numbers, etc..let’s interact 1-1.
    GB has my email ID. You may be surprised about GUjarat.

    Also, it’s not “ethnic cleansing”,it’s “religious cleansing”.
    Ethnically, both sides are the same in Kashmir.

  9. Marchjhapi was 1978. It didnt happen in the heart of Kolkata. Images of police washing blood off the pavement quickly were not beamed to TVs. Before mid 1990s, Jyoti-babu was supreme. It was after Operation Sunshine that I believe he started losing goodwill even among of his most ardent supporters.

  10. “I think Bengal is too precious, too valuable, too important to write off. Let us do what we can to support it, defend it and allow it to blossom to the best possible extent. Will you join hands with me to secure Bengal’s future?”

    Bengal Voice- Sure I will. Let us not forget that it was on this very soil of Bengal where one of cricket’s most remarkable comeback was made by VVS Laxman at the Eden Gardens. Jyoti Basu has done a lot of damage before being eventually being dismissed for 95. We are following-on, so to speak, behind the rest of India. But batsmen like you and Rishi, HHBB (where is he btw?) are quite capable of doing a Laxman. I will help in any capacity that I can- be it the tacit support of Dravid, the spinning finger of Harbhajan Singh or the right index finger of Bansal.

    Great link by the way. Please continue to enlighten us about the ground realities with your astute observations.

  11. This is a superb post from you. May be, the best post I have read till now in your blog. No satire. No humor. They said it correct, “when the jester weeps everybody weeps”.

    Really touchy. Out of the box and yet do justice in explaining his big “fall”, explaining and analyzing the starter “operation sunshine”.

    Long live Mr. Basu, long live you!

  12. very nicely written..good work summarizing the angst of late 20s early 30s generation whose opinions invariably happened to be in a minority.

  13. @Bengal Voice

    I admire BJP’s proactive measures regarding development during their 5 year tenure..and the disinvestment policy which harboured competitive atitude in many sectors where state had the stranglehold but somehow potential superstars like Aroun SHourie and Arun Jaitley where never allowed to take cenre stage..Their defeat of 2004 remains still a mystery..There “India Shining” campaign was visible in English newspapers but not in village pamphlets…

    The UPA Government latest litmus test will be 2010 Commonwealth games..If they can present stadiums, facilities and smooth running as promised then it will do India’s image a lot of good….UPA Government has to e appreciated the way they refused to be bullied by the G8 regarding climate change..I still have doubts whther climate change is really man made..

    But after the 2008 crisis UPA#s strength seems to be peterig out..Many promised Infra projects have been scaled back or been put on the back burner..Lets see whether things change for the better..What amazes me and makes me jealous to no end is China’s Usain Bolt like 8.5 percent sprint in spite of earthquakes and financial meltdowns..You know where is the magic? There are technocrats running the government …Right from their Premier to top leadership echelons you will see them possessing engineering, electronics medical masters or PhDs..And perhaps the communist party reflects the different culture of China as LATimes pointed out..In China people look up to their leaders (Much diff from our common refrain “Sab saale chor hain”) and repose lot of trust , faith and good heart in them.They see their leaders as the carriers of the 5000 year old Unbroken Chinese Civilization..And the great thing is the leaders there honour this trust and tak it upon themselves to guide the nation to greater glory even it might be against popular opinion as they see the people as children who can be shown the correct path..this is the same reason there wont be china wide riots for the cause of democracy descending the country to chaos and misrule as hoped for by the white people..This is what I like about China No Left Wingery or Right Wingery only technocracy

    I hope India has that sort of leadership too in the near future (MMS and Chidambaram already qualifies in this regard) but may be to inculcate that sort of leadership we need to foster a sense of belonging to the Indian civilization among our people…Here comes my most critical question to you Bengal Voice..The Hindu Nationalism that BJP pursues–is it religious Hindu Nationalsim or Cultural Hindu Nationalism…I mean if they want to make people feel proud of Hinduism why don’t they hark back to the Indus Valley Civilization and not to mythological Ramayana and Ram Janambhoomi stuffs..I and countless millions like me feel who are staunch atheists cannot connect with their hyperbole regarding the Ram Sita Kahani…Why not base Hindu pride in the achievements of the Indian civilization before 1100 AD or if you want o be more inclusive before 1757 AD. Basing Hindu pride to real points in history rather than Mythological fliff-flaff will trun them into sure winners..Why not celebrate the recent discoveries of under water cities off the coast of Dwarka rather than foolishly claiming that the Raam Sethu is man made…Although without any devotion towards God I still celebrate Durga Puja with passion as it gives me pride and solace that I am taking part in the same community festivals as my forefathers and following the same rituals which really instills the sense of identity and belonging in me..But even after that millions like us admit that this is the life..After ths life there is no Heaven Hell or Anyhing in Between…It will be pure non-existence…Opening up the chapter of cultural Hinduism will reinvigorate Nationalism and it will also make minority communities drop their gaurd as they will come to realize that party is not bent on infringing upon their rights but are making them remeber that they belong to the same civilization and not some other that lay beyond the seas…Only then will we see the next generation leaders who are as much dedicated to our country before petty self interests as our brave jawans…It is this acute lack of belonging and sense of pride in their History that has led to horrendous, ruinous and criminally correupt leadership in all of Africa and the prsence of whch has made China the envy of Western nations..India is midway between Africa and China regarding this right now ..its upto BJP to be that real “Party wih a difference”

    Thats my Re 0.02 on the subject

  14. Sad, but true…..GB, I couldnt have agreed more with you. There are moments when I think that we really should have had a bit more of SS Ray and a bit less of Basu.

    The worst part about Basu’s reign is that he is singlehandedly responsible for driving lots of Bengalis out of Bengal. I am a corporate lawyer, born in Kolkata but now in Bangalore-reason: there’s no work for me in my homeland.

    And for a first-hand account of stuff that’s still happening in Bengal, see http://swayambhumukherjee.blogspot.com/2009/12/lost-cause-ii.html

    Thanks,
    Swayambhu

  15. I laughed out loudly, and literally i did at “Aaye Mere Bhoton Ke Logon”. The girl who sits next to me in my office thought i was watching some funny video.

    The day JB died, i called up one of my friends who stays in Kolkata (Salt Lake). He was having coffee at that time at City Center. He told me that the iconic mall appeared more vibrant than all the earlier weekends he spent there. He also gladly informed me that people especially youngsters of Kolkata seemed to be celebrating the demise of JB.

    I too was celebrating in a corner of Gurgaon, with ada-cha and moori-bhaja. Trust me!

  16. I know my friends did that too….celebrate, that is. And yes, it was a Sunday, and people knew the weekend would be extended. So there’s no reason why CC shouldn’t be packed, no?
    Yesterday, JB gave people in Bengal one last unscheduled holiday….this one, though, wasn’t a bandh, for a change!!

  17. When I heard the news, and read this post, a Bertholt Brecht quote came to mind, which I paraphrase -

    “Do not rejoice in his defeat. you men/
    For although the bastard is dead,/
    The bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

  18. Very well written. I wonder at the way some media is treating him…and amitabh’s visit is also surprising… trying to get brownie points for his chotte bhaiya ?!

  19. No one can forget the dark ages, they are the lower bench mark for success. Jyoti basu sadly took 23 years to set just that.
    “Some leaders bring out the best in their people. Jyoti-Babu unfortunately brought out the worst” .. os so very true …

  20. Arnabda,

    All said and done what really really matters in development, Unnati. Under Jyotida’s rule there has been no Unnati in the state. Even while I was reading about him in the newpaper all that was mentioned was that he was a great leader and a statesman but not a single line on what developments had happened in the state under his leadership.

    We consider ourselves to be intelligent where every son is expected to be an Kharagpur or Shibpur or Jadavpur passout and its true too, but why did we leave the land to serve somewhere else? Does Jyoti babu have an answer for that.

    Bengal has lost many many opportunities… I don’t know how many more opportunities would be gone by… Long live Jyoti babu.. Long live amar shopno of a Shona’r Bangla.

  21. @Sayan:
    “Cannot agree any less !
    Every time I read your pieces I realize you are speaking my mind!”

    You mean, of course, that you “couldn’t agree more”, not “less”. :)

  22. Nandigram and Singur were not major issues becaiuse land was taken, the agitators were more concerned with the methods used, which no sane person can condone.That is where Mamta is diffrent from what the commies have done..

  23. there is someting called low level politics – hope that in quest for a change – thesate doen’t sink into lowest level of politics – it can hardly do any good to anyone! after all the greatest truth is “power spoils” whoever it maybe.

  24. it’s the damn river fish that makes bengali people emhochanol , try sea fish and you get Pawar who can atleast give us a tamasha every year so our school chutti is peaceful or turn vegetarian and get modi

  25. Pingback: Daily Link « Login Into Life

  26. Sadly Bengal is leftist by heart and is more attracted by the black and white romance of poverty than by the flashy opulence of capitalism. But this post is about Basu, and most of Bengal remembers Basu for Marichjhanpi, lock-outs and loadshedding.
    He was definitely the “first chapter” of leftist rule in WB, now whether he is the “last chapter” is yet to be seen.
    P.S. Found written on a wall – “CPI(M) – 2012″ – because they are sure that even if Didi makes it in 2011, she won’t last till 2012.

  27. Nice obit GB. Did anyone notice the irony that the great communist leader who fought against capitalism spent his last moments getting treated in a private hospital?

  28. @ Jayanta Bhattacharya

    Believe me you sir…Trinamool will die with Mamata Banerje…if not before that.
    Bengal needs a change…and it might come in 2011. But Communism doesnt end there.
    Red Salute to Jyoti Basu.

  29. @achu
    i guess it has more to do with literature than food..though i agree “jaisa khaye ann vaisa hoy mann”

    (we studied Veer Gatha kaal,Bhakti Kaal,Ritikavya Kaal,Adhunik Kaal etc. During Veer gatha kaal the literature was full of veer ras…and society was more aggresive in that period than in Ritikaal..)

    We may cry over the things …but its difficult to change public psyche.. common man does not understand fake degrees of mamta as big issue and they rely on print media, TV media & political party propaganda meetings..to make opinions.

    I have read of a guy who would write graphiti -sun goes round the earth single handedly all over kolkata ! He was uneducated but i was surprised at its effectiveness …almost every one read that !

    similarly, i wish some one translates this article in multi languages and circulate in bengal!(obviously with GB’s nod!)

  30. Very good post !
    Japan is associated with a ‘Lost Decade’ ………. JB’s legacy in West Bengal has been a ‘Lost Generation’ …….. he had systematically destroyed whatever was left of bengal, bred corruption, driven out industry, forced thousands of youth to go out & explore job opportunities elsewhere …….. even the so-called ‘land reforms’ were half-baked with farmers’ land titles kept in the custody of local party offices so that farmers remain pawns of local cadres. and now that he is gone suddenly JB is being touted as a ‘visionary’ ! i wonder what has been this man’s contribution, what vision did he actually have ???
    Let’s all hope Mamata doesn’t indulge in an encore !

  31. I guess you needed to be present at the Vidhan Sabha at 8:00 am on 19th january to witness what did not happen even for Rabindranath Tagore or Bidhan Roy…Then maybe you would have known what people of Kolkata felt for their legend..

  32. Pingback: Durga Puja 2009 » Blog Archive » Not The End of An Era | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  33. Let’s enumerate the number of big industrial prjects undertaken and executed during Basu’s reign

    1) Bakreshwar Thermal Power Plant

    One of the biggest failures of Basu’s reign would be his inability or unwillingness to stop the coal mafia in Burdwan district in Asansol-Raniganj area…The world’s best quality coal comes from those areas but it is the height of irony that thermal power plants in Bengal have to import their coal from Australia

  34. @yourfan2
    Your cricket analogy had me floored. Thanks for offering to spin like Bhajji. Do send me an email when you get the chance. You can find my email id on the blog above (that is linked to my name).

    @GB
    Will do. I’ll take the conversation offline with Shaswata.

    @Shaswata Panja
    You have very valid points and I agree with you on many points (given that I am a staunch Agnostic Hindu). Respecting GB’s wishes, let’s take the conversation offline. Please feel free to shoot me an email sometime.

  35. @GreatBong

    You are right my comments have veered way off topic..you may delete them if you feel that is appropriate

  36. I remember some years ago on my visit to Cal,I had gone to get text books for my nephew in some big marketplace( I forget the name). I found shops partially closed and shopkeepers snoozing inside. The time was 3pm or 3.30.Coaxing them to make a transaction needed a lot of effort(just the sort of scene from ‘Asterix in Corsica’)
    I could not help comparing the active tradesmen of Chennai and Mumbai vis-s-vis their brothers in Cal. This apparent dormancy to do with the party or is it a regional characteristic?
    It is another thing that I find this non mercantile quality also endearing..

  37. Congrats… Arnab…

    all the creepy crawlies are out in your support… the Kolkata which snoozes at 3:30… the youngsters that celebrate death … the “all communists are scum” brigade (most of whom, I presume, having retained their jobs through the global triumph of capitalism… obviously motivated news paper reports… Bengal gets what it deserves… no development in Bengal… all the usual pretenders are here…

    Sad, the restraint I would have expected from you is not a function of how absolutely brilliant your writing is…

    Legacies are not written in a day… neither are they lost in one…

  38. Arnab,

    A balanced article, too balanced perhaps or may be I am much too emotionally involved on this subject. I am mixed on the guy because he did save our family business once, but the reason it was in such trouble in the first place was because of his party and policies.

    The destruction this man wrought began in the sixties and, yes, urbane and educated Bengalis did support him. Some say that is perhaps because Capitalism and capitalists had an ethno-centric connotation in Bengali: first, British; and, second, Marwari. I disagree because there were major Bengali industrial houses: the Sur’s of Surfridge, the Chakravartys of Calcutta Fans, Bengal Chemicals, the Mukherjee’s of IISCO, and th owners of Assam Cement, not to mention numerous shipping company, coal mine and tea estate owning families.

    Some Bengalis did oppose the intellectual trend, Rand’s Fountainhead was made into a Bengali movie (Surjo-toron), but they were pushed out. In the 80s, there ensued a mass flight of intellectuals, which left the likes of Pornob and Rituporno as masters of the Calcutta universe. Again, I always wonder why an LSE educated man would preside over this mess? I have no answer.

    Whatever it may be, it is the end of an era. Loadsheddings, Processions, Strike, Gherao, Kendre’r Chokranto (Central level plots), and shuttered stores. You know, funny, how powerful the CPIM seemed in the 80s and 90s; really, unless one lived there, the claustrophobia could not be described. It was as if someone had placed the entire middle class in a rather smart maze and switched the lights off. The Baboos from Writers Building to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles had created a Vogon universe. The party office controlled everything from the Puja to local clubs and land deals. And, at the top, above the clouds, shrouded in the bullet proof white ambassador, Basu zipped around the city. He seemed like God, presiding over the entire machine, his face and words everywhere.

    Until, of course, another appeared, more virulent, angrier, and nastier than him. The mistake Basu made was that he did not kill her, or was stopped by some police officer when the thugs attacked, whichever story is true. My father used to say that Mamata was proof of CPIM’s success: violence as routine; disruption of commerce as norm; and destruction of public property as a right. In this sense, Jyoti Basu’s legacy does live on!

    Cheers,

    Vasabjit

  39. i am not a fan of jyoti babu. i know CPM cadar rigged elex after elex but then i als want to give devil its due. The first is land reform, again there may be partiality n distributing land but still these comrades are successful in this account and second is keep communal tension in check. West bengal is a state which saw on of the worst communal violance in histort (nowakholi, direct action day)it is quite an achivment that there is no ciolance after indira gandhi’s murder and during rath yatra and after babri demolition.

  40. Superb post, Greatbong.

    As a person who did not live in Bengal but always admired the vanguard contribution of the state to Indian thinking (yes,I believe that till the 80s the adage -”what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” was true),I have the following observations -

    Perhaps the worst result of Jyoti Basu’s rule was to virtually reverse the progress West Bengal had made under it’s second CM, Dr.B.C.Roy. As a high school student in Hyd, we read about the industrialization of the state..Durgapur,Rourkela etc etc. This was all rolled back and the state went into a dark period.

    The Red culture in India emanated from the leftist rule in Bengal. I hear friends from Bengal and Kerala ruminate about the wretchedness of life under the marxists.

    Was not English banned as a primary language under his rule under the guise of protecting Bengali and this left millions of youngsters unable to compete meaningfully in the national economy?

    Maybe all Indian states are paradoxes in their own way but I am left wondering about the complexity of a state that produced such pathbreaking individuals (apologize to the tons of illuminati I left out ) Tagore,Ray,Amartya Sen, Saurav etc etc but does not seem to value advancement in any collective sense.

  41. When are you going to watch “Pyaar Impossible” and post its review? I am a great fan of Udai Chopra but can’t muster enough courage to go watch his movies. Thats why your reviews on his (and his father’s) movies mean so much to me.

    Please watch this movie for me and let me know how it was…

  42. @Vamsi
    Rourkela in Bengal?

    @DJ

    You are wrong.

    Tiljala, Tengra, Metiabruz, Garden Reach (all within stone’s throw from Kolkata) had some of the worst communal riots in 1992.

    I can go and give a bigger list of things that are happening and happened in the past, but my good friend Arnab will delete the message in a jiffy (as if thats going to change reality or history)

    I will let everyone see reality for themselves as the years pass by.

  43. You have mentioned exactly what I, as a Bengali think of Jyoti Basu. The man had capability, he used it wrongly and yet people voted for him. How much can we blame him for that? All he did was follow his principles, to a T.

    But I shudder at the truth you have exposed about Mamata-di. Scary. To imagine her as the next Basu? Please! Poor Buddhadeb as you mentioned, was just beginnning to try bring Bengal back on track. Just as the party started reforming, people voted back to the basics – Mamata. (mamata the intellecutal?! ouch!)

    Makes me wonder. Is India like that? Shiv Sena/ Bal Thackeray and then the moment they went soft, we have Raj T taking over the mantle. Mayawati.

    Eventually perhaps the Indian psyche does not allow a good political leader without an agenda in poverty/minority/religion/community. Or is it that the wrong ppl are voting?

  44. Another thing. No matter what, it was a little difficult to poke fun at JB.

    You could not trifle with a man who really did believe in what he did. Making a comic out of him like we do for Mayawati, Mamata, Lalu and the rest has been difficult. And when he spoke, you had to but listen.
    Am not a communist, neither a Jyoti B fan, but my childhood has been influenced by him -as you mentioned :)

  45. in the 1990s i was probably too young to understand and contemplate politics…but i vividly remember that jyoti babu as an iconic figure….from early 2000s onward i have been living outside kol…for perusing higher education and subsequently on account of my job….so i don’t deem it fit that i should comment on the socio-political accomplishments of this man…but i happened to be present in kol on the day of his passing away….i have witnessed the stream of people who took to the streets , i have witnessed people shedding tears, i have witnessed the pain in their faces…i have witnessed it all…and to add to that it was not a maha-michil organized by the marxists…it was a collective and spontaneous reaction….but i assume you could not witness these things because physically you were miles from kolkata….thus i believe you had to rely on the newspapers and on the blogs ….i was shocked to read that they are trying to convey the message that ‘ Kolkata, the city of emotions, had failed to open up its heart for the man who was its most famous resident for decades’….it is so naive and stupid on their part to even come up with such an ‘imagination’…i would again impress upon the fact that i am not trying to debate politics in general and jyoti babu in particular but i am just trying to put across the point that jyotibabu remains an icon and kolkatans know how to treat an icon be it in his lifetime or be it in his death…journalists should behave in a more mature and responsible manner

  46. you should have waited a few more days before making statements like Jyoti basu was effaced and he remained no longer with the people.He was and still is with the poor not with affluent sections like you.That is evidenced by the lakhs which atteded his funeral yday.The affluent and upper middle class sections which u represent also have made fun of JB and never anything good to say about him.He did not ask for your support neither got it and it is only the poor who repeatdely voted him back and will remain in the hearts of many ppl though u can go on cursing him as much as u like.His place is history is secure and is not dependent on nobodies like u

  47. @Arijit above- “He was and still is with the poor not with affluent sections like you.”

    True. And one of the ways to do that is to ensure that the poor remain poor, while Chandan got imported cars, and he drunk expensive scotch whiskeys on tax-payer money. Thank god we escaped the net, and are not stuck with nobodys like u.

  48. @Arijit: Why do I get the feeling that you are a government servant in West Bengal, or your dad is a member of the party?

    For many, many of us – the greatest stroke of luck was that we managed to get our of West Bengal quickly. For me I have no doubt that my career would have been better if I had not spent those three years at Scottish – much as I love the college.

  49. An 81-year old gentleman (Dr. Anil K. Sarkar, MD) emailed me his profound thoughts on Jyoti Basu’s demise. I would like to share his observations with you, since it may helps connect the dots to those readers who are puzzled at how and why Jyoti Basu and Marxism became synonymous with W.Bengal. It may be a bit long, but I definitely feel it is worth a read.

    Jyoti Basu , CPM and Marxism

    The Ex-Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu passed away at age 95 and nobody seems to feel sorry for him, but many consider him as the one who ruined West Bengal.

    Let us look into the social, political and economic history of our race and understand, who Marx (1818-1883) was and why this Marxism became popular in the past and is now almost gone, to understand the story about Jyoti Basu.

    Evolved like the animals, where one had to die to be the food for the other, caring and sharing with others were not normal for the human beings. Like the animals, the stronger always tortured, enslaved or killed the weaker ones and the rules of the kings continued for millennia. Then came democracy and the industrial revolution. Unable to survive in the villages, the growing population started to move to the industrial center to work to earn their bread. The owners of the factories and mines, who were the rulers and the aristocrats in the past, used the poor and disunited workers as slaves and paid them very little and put them in un-inhabitable slums. It was cruel and inhuman.

    Karl Marx, a German Jew saw this inhumanity and wrote books and articles protesting against this inhumanity and his ideas gained popularity. But he did not understand how the human society was evolved, where there could not be any equality or justice. So he advocated that the workers should unite and destroy the owners and share the profits equally. He failed to see that without proper education, organization and leadership, the powerful among the workers, would be the new leaders like the kings and would enslave the poor as before.

    Lenin (1870-1924) believed in Marxism and wanted to replace the power of the Czar and of the landlords (Boyers) with the power of the working people, the proletarians. He could not organize the working people, but got the power from the Kerensky govt. by a coup after the Czar resigned. But Lenin became sick and Stalin, a Ruthless Dictator got the power and used the working people as slaves and built up a strong USSR to fight with the capitalist world. Because of propaganda, the poor working people of the world found a new hope in this Marxism, but could not know the truth about the proletariat of Russia, millions of whom died to build the empire of Stalin. Most of them were worse than before. Russia was not the Utopian heaven of the proletariat, but some people of India (educated people with not much money) became enchanted with this Marxist magic. Money and industrial power was with the super rich and these Marxists became very jealous of those rich people. So they tried to get power by uniting and inciting the poor workers and farmers to go on strikes and to disrupt anything that was functioning.

    The desperately poor people trusted those leaders and dreamed of a better day and voted for them. In West Bengal, these middle class, mostly upper castes had no job, or any prospect of becoming rich, started to fight the people of the Congress party that got the power from the British. In the 1970s the Marxists (CPM) got the power in WB as the Congress could not deliver anything to the poor. They also killed many Congress workers in the process. And came the CPM and Jyoti Basu in WB.

    He incited the workers to go on strike and destroy everything. Naturally the industries and businesses moved out of WB, making the people jobless and poorer.

    The Marxists believed in the fight to get power and did not consider what the Muslims were; to them everyone was a Comrade. So they considered the Muslims as comrades and would not even talk about communalism. So to get the Muslim votes to stay in power to fight Congress, the supporters of the Capitalists, they pampered the Muslims. And we know what those brainwashed devils of the CPM did to WB and the Hindus. With religious devotion, the brainwashed people blindly supported Jyoti Basu and that is why, he was the CM of WB for so long.

    One person I knew, one with an MA degree and a party leader, told me, “You do not know much about MAHATMA Stalin.” Now you know what brainwashing can do. Mahatma Stalin !!

    While in my village at one time, a poor man came to me for help when Jyoti Basu came to our area and was delivering lecture on mike, that I could hear from my home. So I asked the man to go to Jyoti Basu and ask for help. He said that nobody would allow him to go near him. And that is the story.

    I saw Jyoti Basu when he was the CM and asked for his help, but he did not do anything to help me to help the poor. Let us leave the departed Basu in peace.

    Dr. Anil K. Sarkar. MD
    Jan 18, 2010

  50. why so much pessimism?

    this has been one of the best winters in calcutta in a long time. the air is cleaner and under the orange halogen and in the soft mist at night the city looks ethereal.

    we are a happy people who love our food, books, mathematics, science and religion. today is saraswati puja and people are having a blast on the streets.

    may i add that we saw none of the bizarre rioting that follows the death of movie stars in bangalore. calcutta may not have jobs but i just love this city for its liberalism.. couples holds hands and walk around, bars and nightclubs are open till dawn and this is one city where, at least in my social circle, hindus and muslims mix freely without anyone raising any questions. this is without talking about food.

    it is sad that our most learned and idealistic people fell under the spell of german philosophy and wrecked the economy/rule of law but many others, least of all the russians, another cultured people have made the same mistake.

    while you guys bitch and whine about the ruination of bengal i will be going to the boi mala next week, on one of calcutta’s new swanky buses paid for by the UPA government’s JNURM and may just pick up a copy of gb’s book.

  51. @arijit
    my dear namesake, no need to sound so hurt. you have chosen to remain a brain-washed party loyalist – be happy that way. ignorance is bliss.
    for 3 & half decades, JB’s party exploited rural bengal, terrorised people there & added to the misery by freely allowing b’deshi immigrants into the state – all for votebank politics.
    u said your party never relied on the votes of the rich & elite (true – kolkata was never their stronghold), but how come your party got thrashed in its rural strongholds in 2009 ???
    as regards funeral crowd, your party has excelled in filling up the brigade parade ground over the years. with 2 days’ lead time, it was cakewalk for the party to mobilise a decent crowd for the comrade’s last journey. however, the public response at shubhash chakraborty’s funeral procession seemed more spontaneous and genuine.
    the problem that is staring at us today is one breed of muscle-power politics is giving way to another …….. will that herald any change in bengal ? only time will tell !

  52. Hi GB

    i have been an ardent but silent fan of your blog for a long time now.

    Sorry for being anal, but i just wanted to point out that ‘angst’, properly, means anxiety, and not anger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angst).

    I have yet to see it used correctly by any Indian writer on the web – hopefully you will use it correctly in future.

  53. with the beginning of this new era and when Mamta di actually comes to power, we will see a buddhadebless CPM returning to the same old ways, the ways of Jyoti Basu and Mamta di … When will Bengal come out of this vicious circle?

  54. @Arijit-

    The late, great director Stayajit Ray was a good political observer too. In the 70s, his criticism of the then Congress party is well-disguised in Jana Aranya, but is very evident upon closer examination. Similarly, his movies, Goopi Gayen, and Hirak Rajar Deshe, are allegories of the perils of the way the WB govt under Basu turned out to be. I do not know if Ray had Basu specifically in mind, but Hirok Raja is so strikingly similar to Jyoti Basu.

    Remember those lines and couplets sung in praise of Hirok Raja, the ones denouncing questioning the government and the ones which specifically denounced extra knowledge and information as bad? :))

    PS Also what an un-communist farewell of a leader!! Is not the party supposed to be bigger than the person.:))

    I am amazed by the tone of sympathy. Some people are trying to shove down our throats that we should feel sorry just because he has passed away. WTF. That does not in any way condone his actions. Eventually, in history, after all allegations and insinuations, all that is left is results. And his numbers and results, over such a long period of time, are unquestionable pointers to a massive, monumental failure.

  55. @Arijit above-

    “His place is history is secure and is not dependent on nobodies like u.”

    I find that comment to be singularly disturbing. You seem to be from the school of thought who think that a politician should be a giant-figure, for whom the rules of citizens do not apply. In that case, JB’s charm, laconic British wit and discourse, his personality, and skills as a politician naturally make him a great icon in your eyes. However, I also judge a public servant on his accomplishments. You do not seem to care about that aspect. Personality, charisma, etc are evidently bigger quotients for you. I know people from an earlier generation who have told that they consider meeting Indira Gandhi etc. as the biggest moment of their lives.

    Now does that tell you something? It tells me that our country was so lacking in any kind of accomplishments, that the people thought leaders who represented the country to be the only things to be proud of. Thankfully, our poor country has made great strides in many aspects, and therefore it is natural that the successful, young gen does not see a political figure with the sepia-tinted glasses that you do. Also, think about what the word ‘sorbohara’ means. It means a poor person without any means. If many poor people, who continued to remain in poverty, still revere JB, who basically pushed more people towards poverty, then what does that tell you? It tells me that these people are so poor, both literally and figuratively, that the only thing they can be proud of, is the legacy of a politician, who could not help them, but helped himself and his party, and pushed their state back by many years. Now that is real poverty!

  56. Very well said. I am, however, little surprised by your insistence upon the ‘cold response’ from the city and ‘negative reports’ by the media, because having experienced the city (and its newspapers — including the Times of India, which even today had two pages dedicated to Basu) on that very day, I had a completely different impression. People were not on his party’s side, no, and were quite vocal about his (mis)rule — and they thronged to watch the carriage anyway. His Salt Lake residence is a stone’s throw away from my house — the sheer number of flowers and candles is quite astonishing, given how we (the residents of Salt Lake) have usually cursed the man and that damned barricade around his house.

  57. @ Yourfan2
    “I know people from an earlier generation who have told that they consider meeting Indira Gandhi etc. as the biggest moment of their lives”.

    I could never understand this kind of fascination.

    Many NRIs donate huge sums of money to politicans in the US just so that they can put of picture of themselves shaking hands with some Congressman/Senator/President with one hand while holding a paper plate full of Samosas in the other hand, at some fundraiser.
    Then they frame that picture and hang that on their drawing room wall.

    You ask them to use these people to use their connections for some worthy cause, and they run away.

  58. GB, you missed JB’s greatest achievement – maintaining communal harmony in a state notorious for communal carnage.
    1984 – Our beloved nationalists were busy writing ‘Sardar Gaddar Hai’ outside Sikh households in South Kolkata & trying to burn down the taxis run by Sikh community. Never heard of our beloved DIDI trying to stop her party’s goons. Jyotibabu gave a ‘shoot-to-kill’ order & brought the situation under control within a couple of days. Not a single Sikh got killed in West Bengal.
    1992 – He brought the situation under control again within a week with minimum casualty.

  59. @R Sengupta,

    maintaining communal harmony cannot be dear to people who salivates over Narendra Modi and the RSS .You should read some of the other articles by GB and realises he is a hardcore fan of the RSS.Jyoti Basu would have been dear to them if he had failed to maintain communal harmony(i.e Muslims got killed) and not otherwise

  60. @my namesake & sengupta,

    do u consider tiljala, topsia, metiabruz, etc. places outside kolkata or bengal ??? if that is the case certainly ‘peace has prevailed in JB’s reign’ ……. didn’t i mention ‘ignorance is bliss’ ? what do i call this – selective memory or slective amnesia ? ;-) and of course, dont forget marichjhapi – provided u r even aware of it !
    what was that gas about ‘JB’s greatest achievement’ ? leave aside gujarat – several states have performed better both on industry front as well as agriculture & at the same time managed to achieve a decent record of communal harmony. look up CMIE publications – the facts speak for themselves. get ur facts correct b4 making such general statements.
    as regards peace in the state – the way the party cadres terrorised villagers for more than 3 decades & the way the party learnt to ABUSE the police machinery – those may “qualify” as JB’s achievements.

    @yourfan2

    yes, i exactly had hirak rajar deshe-r ‘magoj-dholai astro’ in mind when i refered to my namesake as a brain-washed party loyalist’ :)
    a person who has destroyed the state’s work-culture, turned back the clock on the education system, driven out a generation of youth & did everything possible to ruin the state is being shamelessly portrayed as a visionary …….. all i can say is WTF !

    of late, there is a lot of talk that throughtout JB’s tenure he had differences with his party & opposed many of his party’s decisions/policies which, at hind-sight, proved disastrous (eg. removing english at lower classes). if realising ‘certain policies of his party are bound to back-fire’ is considered as being a visionary, then yes, JB is indeed a visionary ! in that case he is an UTTER FAILURE AS A LEADER. a leader is said to be successful if he has the charisma to convince his people & party in understanding what is good for the masses & if need be even supercede his party’s decisions. HE DIDN’T DO IT. then why is he even considered to be a great leader ??? he was just another party loyalist who didn’t have the guts to question policies which were against the interest of the masses ! when he knew his party’s decisions only brought disaster, he should have resigned long back ! why did he choose to hang on to his CM post ???

  61. whatever… Communism destroyed Bengal and this is the person who did it for a longer time. Just compare bengal before and after communists.

    Communism is like .. like .. “gande naali ka keeda” and Indian communism is traitor and in deep shit.

    Take it or leave it.

  62. @GB….sir jee u just make me think so much that my little brain seems to explode…i have never found anyone’s writing to be as enchanting as yours….i have almost gone through all of ur post at my company’s time(office hours)…you have given me a desire to start reading books again and start thinking more analytically….God how is your thought process so crystal clear….must be a voracious reader all your life…please give some funda to be a good thinker…anyways my congratulations for such a wonderful post….

  63. It is credit of Mr Jyoti Basu for degradation of Bengal and rise of CPM in India. He may not be remembered by anyone in Bengal a decade from now but the future communists will recall his tenure as golden era of CPM in West Bengal. History will give him his propeer place as given to other great communist leaders.

    People should not blame Mr Basu for looking after his party and the party cadres as selfishness is everywhere. Someone is successful and other are not. It took 34 years for the people to standup and confront the system of oppression. If one brands it as cowardice of the public in general he should not be blamed. We are religious and claim of reading Holy Gita but has not learned or followed the saying of Lord Krishna. A YugaAvatar is not required for bringing the justice in West Bengal. Some brave people can standup and eleminate the criminals following the guidelines of Holy Gita. I would suggest all to read the Holy Gita first and comment on activities of people trying to bring justice on way to Dharma Rajya with virtuous people and society. Good words/Enchantment will not change the criminals which could have been done by Lord Krishna to change the Kourava, but he suggested elimination of criminals in the great fight of Mahabharata which is called a DharmaJudha- Nakul

  64. Pingback: Ten Years Of The Blog | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

Have An Opinion? Type Away

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s