“The rail hike is against Trinamool’s DNA”. —Derek O’Brien, Trinamool MP

Over the past few years, in a series of blog posts, I have put the three-leaf-clover of the Trinamool under my electron microscope, trying to decode its DNA. My conclusion, not that it is particularly novel, was that “What people were calling the eclipsing of Communism in Bengal with Buddhadev’s defeat was actually its revival. Because Trinamool’s DNA is an exact clone of what used to be the CPM’s DNA under Jyoti Basu.”  “Under Jyoti Basu” is a significant modifier because there had been a slight jiggling of the CPM DNA during the rule of Buddhadev Bhattacharya, where based on some genetic perturbations, the new leader had come to embrace concepts hethetro considered anathema to the Communists, like the aggressive wooing of industrial investment. It was not however an X-Men type radical mutation, (which was what was needed) because when push came to shove (with Didi providing both the push as well as the shove), Buddhadev was found to be unwilling, or unable to, chemo out the cancer of  “party”-sponsored violence and intimidation.

What I had said, of course, had been based on my own observations of Mamata Banerjee’s  “scorched earth” tactics of political agitation when she was in the opposition, tactics that had been used by the Left Front to propel themselves into power eons ago.

Has the fundamental nature of the TMC  changed, now that she is in power?

Sadly no.

As a matter of fact, TMC-raaj has reflected, sometimes in almost bizarre ways, its  similitude with the Left Front rule under Jyoti Basu. But then again, DNA’s don’t really change, do they now?

In the last paragraph, I have used the word “bizarre”. Here is how bizarre. Didi has recently mandated that the city of Kolkata  be painted blue because the “sky does not have any limit.” [Video]. This is of course a sagacious move since it stands to reason that using crores of public money to paint the city blue will go further in unlocking its limitless potential than spending that money to fix some of its well-documented but less-poetic problems. [Link]. For those of us old enough to think of Mahender Sandhu’s face rather than Saif Ali Khan’s when “Agent Vinod” is mentioned, this move jogged back memories—memories of an old acolyte of Jyoti Basu by the name of Jatin Chakraborty, who as the Public Works Department minister had commanded the top of the Ochterloney Monument (now called Shaheed Minar) to be painted red. Red because that is the color of the blood of martyrs. And so the crown of one of Calcutta’s most recognizable monuments was painted as crimson as a baboon’s bottom and there it stayed, till Jatin Chakraborty fell out of favor with Jyoti Basu, over the “Bengal Lamp” controversy. Painting walls and monuments, in what may be considered by some to be a gesture of triumphalism (Red= Communist, Blue= Not Red) is something that is common to both the TMC and the Jyoti-Basu CPM’s political DNA. In TMC’s defense though, they could well have asked the city to be painted Green (Green=regeneration). Blue, at least, is a better color. Plus it is considered to be an appetite suppressant.

Then of course, is the CPM and TMC’s attitude towards industry. Over here, I am not just referring to the love both share for militant trade-unionship but to the general cluelessness displayed by their respective leaders in knowing how to attract investment. If anyone ever heard Jyoti Basu trying to invite industry to invest in the state, one would be forgiven for thinking that it is he who was doing industry a favor by deigning to talk to them, an attitude no doubt inherited from decades of being brainwashed by a philosophy that demonizes anyone who has a profit-motive. Cut forward to a few decades to Mamata Banerjee’s address at Bengal Leads 2012. It’s not just statements like Bangladesh sharing a border with Pakistan that was shockingly unprofessional but the general tenor of her talk where she individually names the captains of industry sitting in the audience and asks each of them “Why do you not invest in Bengal?” [Link]

The business community had an unexpected grilling at the hands of chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Bengal Leads 2012 on Monday. Some of them were called out by name and asked to explain why they have not invested in the state so far, despite ‘the ground having been cleared’.

“I may not know as much as you do… but may I ask what is it that’s stopping you from investing in Bengal?” asked Mamata, who took a bullish posture in pleading for quick investment at the meet. First, she singled out the representatives of foreign nations who were seated in the front rows. It was then the turn of the local industrialists to face her questions.

” Japan, do you want to invest in Bengal?” she asked a Japanese delegation. “What about my Chinese friends? US? Are you interested? UK? My German friends?” she queried. As some German representatives nodded in affirmation, the chief minister looked pleased and thanked them. “Bangladesh er keu achen ki?” she wanted to know. As none responded, she turned back to the bureaucrats seated on the dais and asked, “Didn’t you invite them?”

It was then the local industry’s turn to face her inquest. ITC chairman Y C Deveshwar was the first to be picked out. Then JSW chairman, managing director Sajjan Jindal. “ITC? Interested? DLF? Mr Jindal when will your industry happen? We have done everything possible to clear your proposals fast, haven’t we?” she said. “And what about you Mr Patton Tank?” she asked industrialist Sanjay Budhia, MD of the Patton Group. “

Now supporters of Didi, and there are innumerably many, would say that this kind of chuminess is “Didi’s oratorical style”. It was definitely original. But given Bengal’s less-than-stellar record of attracting and retaining industrial investment, would not just a presentation with facts and figures and policy statements, go more towards showing that the new government means business, than doing what TOI rightly refers to as “grilling” wherein individuals are asked to stand up and answer, schoolboy style?  Does anyone think that captains of industry will say the truth when cornered in a public forum on camera? Okay. Can we at least agree that calling the MD of the Patton Group “Mr. Patton Tank” does not exactly convey the serious “I want your business” professionalism that would be apposite for such an address?

Next we come to the “conspiracy theories”. If you think that Zaid Hameed and Basit Ali are a bit over-the-top, you have not listened to the CPM party leadership. Short of alien abductions and anal probes, they exhausted every conspiracy theory in their decades in power. Dunkell of the dreaded General Agreement on Trade and Tariff. Reagan. Bush. The World Bank. The World Trade Organization. The Central government or more accurately their “stepmotherly treatment”. Each and every one of them was blamed for being in on a gigantic Dan-Brownish conspiracy to strangle the people’s republic of West Bengal. Not that the state did not have genuine grievances, freight equalization and Congress’s pandering of their stronghold states in favor of West Bengal for example, but to lay the entire blame for Bengal’s misgovernment on them was to, put it mildly, outrageous. During the last election campaign and before too, the CPM (and yes this was under Buddhadev) repeatedly accused Mamata Banerjee of being in the pay of the USA. Which when you think of it is very plausible—since Obama, as we know, is briefed everyday in the morning about developments in West Bengal and the West Bank.

One would have thought that Didi, who had been the object of vituperative attacks by the CPM, would do things differently. Alas not. When an alarming number of crib deaths were reported from government hospitals, it was blamed on a CPM conspiracy. When a woman was raped in a moving vehicle in Calcutta, Didi called it all fabricated, a conspiracy against her government. Then when the truth of the rape could not be denied (thanks to Joint Commisioner of Police Damayanti  Sen’s exemplary competence ) , she accused a media house, ironically the one which had been her biggest cheerleader for decades, of manipulating it at all. And if that was not enough, a Trinamool minister blamed the victim for the rape and called her character into question : “She has two children, and so far as I know, she is separated from her husband. What was she doing at a nightclub so late at night?”

Perhaps plotting against the government.

When yet another woman was raped, Didi blamed it on….yes…you know exactly whom she blamed it on.

Less than a fortnight after drawing flak for her disparaging comments on the Park Street rape victim, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday squarely blamed the Left for the deteriorating law and order condition in West Bengal. She claimed that the 30-year-old woman allegedly raped by a gang of armed robbers on Sunday too was a set-up. Mamata also hit out at the Left over the recent spate of crib deaths in the state, saying it was an attempt to discredit her government

“Fake rape charges are being levelled to malign Bengal’s good name. Baby deaths too are a planned conspiracy by the Left,” said Mamata. She added, “Six rapes were reported in Delhi yesterday. In Bengal, there shouldn’t be any such instance. After all, we are all decent people here.”

With the district collector of Burdwan in tow, the first woman chief minister of the state seemed to rubbish the 30-year-old rape victim’s claims, saying that she was the wife of a CPM worker and a part of an elaborate Left conspiracy against her government.

“Medical evidence has proved that she was not raped. The girl said that her husband is a local CPM worker,” Mamata claimed.

The woman, whose husband has been dead for 11 years, said she was hurt by the chief minister’s claims. “She (Mamata Banerjee) is a woman. She should know a woman will never go on her own and say that she was raped. I am very hurt.”

Now one may be wondering, especially if one is aware of the rather militantly agitational nature of Kolkata’s much-vaunted intelligentsia, where are they in the midst of it all? Surely blaming the victim or casting aspersions on her character would be enough to get a few dharnas out on the street, like how all the “natyokormis” (theater-workers) and assorted intellectuals, ran around like screaming banshees during Nandigram-Singur. So what happened now? Exactly what happened to the intellectuals during Jyoti Basu’s rule. They developed decades of strep-throat, maintaining radio silence during rapes at Bantala and Birati. Of course small matters like periodic scraps thrown at them through the organization of soirees at Nandan, appointment to committees and asking them to sing at union events, had nothing to do with the loss of their revolutionary voice. Under the new TMC administration, intellectuals (who claim to be “independent”) have been similarly satisfied ,   getting plum posts in nice places. All a co-incidence of course.

If painting the city, blaming others and pandering to intellectuals are the Thyamine, Adenine and Cytosine then populism is surely the Guanine. While in opposition, both the TMC and the old CPM used bandhs as a show of strength, a bargaining chip and most importantly as a move that was killer in its populism–who does not like a free holiday while at the same time feeling good about supporting a cause (unless you have someone critically ill or a non-postponeable examination to take)? Now of course, TMC has realized its mistake and  wants to cut the salaries of everyone who skipped work because of the last bandh (not supported by them). The fact that they are now in power has of course nothing to do with this most convenient change of heart.

And to be honest, why does one need a Bandh? One can achieve the same goals by just…let’s see…declaring a new holiday. Same loss of productivity, same feel good.

It is this type of “Doctor na fees maangi hai” Clerkish populism that characterizes most of TMC’s decisions. FDI in retail? Let’s take the old Marxist angle—the US imperialist chains will strangle the poor Indian retailer. Is this the truth? No. Is this a story that the public will buy? Definitely. Hence TMC opposes FDI in retail. Just like the CPM opposed computerization in the 80s because then people would lose jobs, Uncle Sam would steal the ilish fish and cyborgs would take over Writer’s Building.

Is an across-the-board increase in railway fares,  imperative for recouping operational costs, needed? Yes. Will opposing it strengthen the Ma-Maati-Manush populist image? Definitely. Hence TMC opposes increase in rail fares.

And finally, the TMC is all about Mamata Banerjee. There is but one voice, one leader and anyone who goes against what she wants, has no place in its politics. In this respect, it is not much different from most political parties in India, which are almost all personality-driven, autocratic and brook no dissent. Remember Somnath Chatterjee? His years of seniority and stellar record (ironically it was he who lost to Mamata Banerjee when she was an unknown during the Rajiv wave of 1985), did nothing to protect him when he took a stance against the CPM.

But one thing needs mention.What others perceive as TMC’s capriciousness is perfectly consistent with the politics of Mamata Banerjee and her history of agitation. That she passionately hates the CPM is well known. What is not that well-understood is that she has an almost equal distaste for the Congress, her old party which she very appropriately called out as “the B team of the CPM”. The Congress was very much a nudge-nudge-wink-wink opposition to the CPM for decades, whose central leadership, more than once, hung her out to dry to curry favor from the CPM for support in Delhi.  For decades without the support of a party, she waged a lone battle against the formidable CPM machinery, sometimes at great personal risk to her safety (she was almost killed by an attack on her during a rally). It was she who, again in an effort spanning years, built for herself the grassroots organization (mostly from ex-CPM power-merchants perceptive enough to see how Buddha was losing control) that is now the TMC. For the Congress, which had tried to sabotage her at every step, if they think she is going to give them her unqualified support, well they need to stop smoking whatever it is they are.

In this context, one recalls the years Didi spent asking the Center to impose President’s rule in Bengal and Congress turning a deaf ear to her impassioned plea. [Link]

Taking the battle against the Left Front government in West Bengal [ Images ] to the Centre, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday met Home Minister P Chidamabaram and demanded the imposition of President’s rule to ‘save democracy’ in the state.
“The Centre should dismiss the state government and impose President’s rule as it is necessary to save democracy there,” she told reporters after meeting Chidambaram. The Trinamool Congress chief said the Centre should utilise the provisions under Article 355 (to protect a state against external aggression and internal disturbance) followed by Article 356 (to dismiss a state government and impose President’s rule) so as to restore the rule of the law in West Bengal.

Yes. The same person who opposes measures like NCTC  because it impinges on State’s rights and goes on record saying that the UPA government is running roughshod over the concept of federalism, has spent years asking for one of the most abused provisions of our Constitution to be applied to dismiss a democratically elected government. No problem there.

As should be evident by now, Didi just wants to give the Congress  a hard time in the same way they gave her, for years on end, siding with her rivals in the state Congress and making deals with the CPM. She will embarrass the Congress even more so if she knows that it gets her brownie points for populism. And trust me, given her long years in opposition, saying “No” comes very naturally. Which explains why she has more or less consistently opposed everything that the Congress has tried to do. Which is why, even today, she talks about being given respect. Because in the 80s and the 90s, the Congress gave her none.

In conclusion, the TMC’s behavior as one sees today, is as much guided by its DNA ( nature) as it is by its history (nurture). Anyone interested in their story should do well to remember this.

73 thoughts on “The TMC's DNA

  1. brilliant write up, accurate and sadly true! the saddest part being her ‘actions’ are likely to get her more seats instead of harming her prospects in the state.

  2. 1st may I have mu IPOD pliss!!

  3. nevermind!! awesomly written!

  4. swayambhu mukherjee March 20, 2012 — 3:57 am

    dada…infosys/wipro/sez issue..

  5. Babumoshay… when are Bongs going to stop screwing the whole nation?

  6. You are officially a ceebrity now…you are on wikipedia

  7. Nice

    and to add more to TMC’s fame following …

  8. CA Harshal Parte March 20, 2012 — 6:36 am

    I think UP & West Bengal have same fate. Whoever they elect, the result is the same. Screwer changes after every election. Screwee remains the same-the people of the state.

  9. Just saddens me to see my fav quiz-master desperately defending mamta on the tv shows

  10. When I read this I feel sad, hopeless and relieved that I’ve left West Bengal.

  11. Brilliant Post GB!!
    After 30+ years Red-rule with a brief 5 years of one man’s resistance, we bongs have brought people into power who are super regressive and who incentivises inaction. I am thinking the real idiots are us (by that I mean Bengalis), who think we are super smart but actually has rightly become the laughing stock every where. Do us favour GB, write an analysis about the “DNA of a Bong” which protein strand is fucking us up?

  12. I dont know, it was written in humour or not, I was LOL. It seems that every state is having problems with center ….

  13. Prasun Banerjee March 20, 2012 — 11:09 am

    Not sure if i said this here before … but Mamata was best described by Heath Ledger when he said he was like the dogs running after cars in the night … he wouldnt know what to do if he caught one … Mamata has no clue what to do when she has caught “power” … She was great barking at CPM when they were in power. But now …

  14. Its time the general populace of Bengal accept that the days when they were hailed as ‘intellectuals’ are over. I have always pointed out.. in my blogs or during debates that Bengal didnt vote Left out. They voted development out. Left was winning comfortably when they were regressive. But Buddhadeb lost when he tried to take Bengal forward. People voted for Mamta as she is MORE LEFT than Left. Its like voting for Stalin just coz you want to defeat Castro.

  15. Really good !! There are very few writers I respect as much as I respect Arnab… he should be a regular columnist in some big newspaper or magazine.

  16. Excellent post. I agree with all your points but I do sympathize with Didi on the Railway budget controversy. Imagine a DMK minister at the centre passes a bill on improving links with SriLanka — he will promptly be kicked out and replaced. Imagine a Shiv Sena minister at the centre (in a hypothetical BJP ruled govt) works on a trade treaty with Pakistan — you get the drift.

  17. Splendid post. Brilliantly crafted and equally depressing. I am sure as I write this comment, you will find more points to add to your excellent post.

  18. Hey what is this thing with Bengali ministers and relations peeing on fellow travelers. If I remember correctly sometime back one minister did this act. Are har cheej par mootne se thode hi na koi problem solve hoti hai 😉

  19. Pretty long post, couldn’t have done justice otherwise. Congratulations for the Wikipedia listing.
    Amid this charade in “Pawschaad Poschim. B”, somebody actually “means business”.

  20. rants of a die hard communist supporter….poor analysis. would you prefer CPM to continute to be in power? Mamta is by no means perfect, but the “change” was absolutely necessary. You have no clue about the gunda raaj CPM used to play in rural bengal, which of course you have no knowledge of just reading some urban articles published in TOI or the likes.

    In summary, it is like you hate Dhoni, but cant suggest a better captain at the time being..

  21. Kisko kisko blame karein ? Sticking to the issue of rail fare hike – There is an inherent problem if there is no hike for nine years in a row. Both Congress and TMC are to blame. And it hits home the point of a weak government running the nation.

    Look at UP. Appointment of Raja Bhaiyya as minister of prisons is a slap in the face of the electorate. Akhilesh might be saying nothing has been proven against him but thats a weak argument – it shows that he doesn’t have untainted people to run the government and its ministries.

  22. Previous Anon, you clearly have no idea whatsoever about Arnab’s views on communists! Die-hard communist supporter indeed.

  23. Nothing irks me more than just some random squatters soiling the comment space under the name “A Noney Moose”

  24. @Parag what arnab’s views on communists are is immaterial. The question still remains. Would you like CPIM to continue with their arrogance hooliganism and dadagiri?

    A change was required and will be required again given how Mamata is dealing with it. I am all for it as long as the dictatorial style arrogance can be contained. It is a process of political and social maturity that the voters and politicians in WB and in India have to go through.

    From the number of sycophants he has managed to gather, looks like Arnab is a celebrity now, wikipedia or otherwise

  25. @Pratap,
    Tomar point er shaathey broadly aekmot. Tobey bangali hoye beshi ‘mea culpa’ korey laabh nei.Protyek state er i ‘skeleton-in-cupboard’ aaachhey.
    Jyoti Basu/Mamata eder poshchim bonger obostha r jonyo daayi korley boddo beshi gurutwo deoa hobey. After all, era aek aek ta individual. Eder power diyechhi aamra. Ki je kora uchit jaani na. Tobey eta jaani kono ‘magic bullet nei’.

  26. Anonymous Didi-sycophant,

    We are sycophants of Arnab because he is a great writer. Hope that answers your question.

    “What Arnab’s views on communists are is immaterial.” Wonder why then you said “rants of die-hard Communist supporter?” This is even more puzzling considering the fact that Arnab’s main thesis is that the TMC is *as bad* as the Communists. So if he was a die-hard Communist supporter he is also a die-hard Didi supporter. Come back next time with a name. A brain also would be nice.

  27. BTW I have no way of knowing whose sycophant you are. I merely used it since you believe that anyone who agrees with someone else is automatically their sycophant.

  28. @Anonymous : Agreed that the LF were involved in gundagiri etc (right from the 80s). However their problem seem to have started AFTER they also tried to bring in some industrial development.

    Secondly, from the stray news it seems that TMC has manfully taken up the baton from the LF in terms of gundagiri.

    Political change is always a healthy sign for democracy, but if the subsequent treasury benches don’t do their jobs effectively then democracy falls on it’s face again.

  29. yes too bad, mamata doesn’t hire APCO to do her PR like Narendra Modi and sundry African dictators

  30. @vaibhav same here
    What hurt the most was watching derek o’brien defending the whim of mamata.I actually felt pity for him ,for i think he actually knows the underlying populism of didi but really has no choice but to defend the indefensible.This is precisely what discourages sensible people to get into politics because you have to follow the whims of your party leaders who invaariably are either dynastic idiots or populists.”To not have a political background and being given direct authority to right people” seems the only way out as happened with manmohan singh as fm but even that failed when he became a pm,since he had no one to back him like p v n rao.Otherwise even competent politicians like pranab da have not been able to implement the long awaited “second economic reforms”

  31. To those GB-fanboys who provide names (mostly first names though): please provide your full name, social security number or passport number, contact number, and home address if you truly want to identify yourselves.
    wtf is with providing name…how does it put more weight to your comment??
    i am from a part of rural bengal where i have personally seen gundaraj (literally) of CPM and mind you very little of it is reported in the media…and when did i say i supported Mamta (didnt i say “Mamta is by no means perfect”?)…while “spending” public money to paint Kolkata blue is definitely stupid, it is at least better than “looting” public money for a biscuit factory or giving plots of lands at highly discounted price to party caders.
    finally, i am an admirer of GB’s writing myself, but that does not mean i have to blindly agree with everything that he writes.

  32. not being Bengali had no idea of how fucked up the political situation is in Bengal

  33. Whats ur take on UP election?

  34. Anonym-ass supporter of Didi,

    This is within a year of them taking power. I sincerely hope that you are being compensated for your PR, like the rest of your fellow fan-boys. If you are doing this trolling for free, which includes abusing GB, someone whose admirer you claim you are, you are even more braindead than I thought you were.

  35. what would i know March 21, 2012 — 4:25 am

    Our DNA seems self destructive and suicidal…

  36. Now one may be wondering, especially if one is aware of the rather militantly agitational nature of Kolkata’s much-vaunted intelligentsia, where are they in the midst of it all? — Sitting in US and writing blogs maybe! Oh, Sorry forgot, why would they want to come back 😉

  37. Argumentative Indian March 21, 2012 — 5:45 am

    So, WHAT NEXT?

    The people voted out the CPM (unlikely that they, en masse, voted Didi IN). After coming to power, she is CPM Redux.

    Is it possible, that resident Bengalis not having had a stake in development, for far too long, just don’t have the rigor to move forward collectively?

    Personally, till I earned below a certain threshold, I didn’t care a hoot about my job or employer; being a reasonably skilled & mobile (willing to relocate / renew culturally & professionally) person I could move on anywhere at anytime. I really started valuing money, and hence my continued success with my employer with its concommitant hard work and compromises, when I tasted first hand, and continued to taste for sometime, the experience of money and its power (to do simple things like gift my parents a one day trip in an air conditioned car in Kolkata) & attendant comforts (of staying in an upmarket hotel / driving everywhere in an Air Conditioned Sedan).

    From the 1960s to the 1980s, India was a backward & poor country, dependent on foreign aid for subsistence. In this era, the Congress routinely gave step motherly treatment to WB in terms of Central assistance, which worked well for the CPM as it allowed them on the one hand to blame the Center for their own issues and on the other hand their constituency the rural poor, were unaffected anyway.

    From 1991 India embarked on a different economic journey. WB missed the bus then, as the Center continued to ignore it (as it did Bihar). Today, 23 years later when India itself is a much richer country, the difference is stark. In the meantime the average Bengali, never having experienced the pleasure of development, does not have the experience of disciplined hard work AS A COMMUNITY that may be required to bring about the first wave of industrial development.

    Indeed, many of the youth of WB today, may not be around to enjoy the fruits of the trees of development that they per force need to plant today.

    I wonder how that first step can be taken.

    What next?

  38. Argumentative Indian March 21, 2012 — 5:54 am

    Is Kolkata / West Begal really the basket case we make it out to be?

    In India, I travel across Maharashtra, WB, Jharkhand Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka in the course of my work & Goa on holiday.

    The development across India, for people of my age (35+) is amazing. The road infrastructure has improved by leaps and bounds after 2000. I had the pleasure (adventure, I thought before I embarked on the journey) from BOkaro (Jharkhand) to Kolkata overnight some years ago. I was amazed by the excellent quality of the road compared to what I had expected, the occassional but long stretches of rough patches not withstanding and the large volume of traffic. I found the roads got significantly better when we entered the WB state limits.

    Today, WB does not have much industry. However, the economy is NOT what it used to be, in fact it is quite good. It is a growing state with a general Indian standard of living. The fiscal bankruptcy is not unique, in fact here it is in August company with the likes of Maharashtra.

    I think the law and order problems of WB are no more than say a state like Delhi.

    Perhaps WB needs a bit of a spin at this stage, a feel good crusade. People, industry and the landscape of WB, all of them need a big dose of self esteem.

  39. Argumentative Indian March 21, 2012 — 6:29 am

    Are Bengalis, really that disliked, universally all over India?

    Lets start with who is liked in this country?

    There is one community that has always been shown in a positive light in Hindi films, the ‘Shera Di Kaum’, the Punjabis. These people are indeed liked as a community, in large parts of India. I’m not sure how South Indians, espeically Tamilians perceive them.

    How liked are Tamilians? We may want to aks the average Punjabi, perhaps.
    Maybe the Maharshtrian is well liked? Has anyone ever spoken with a Bengali, Bihari, UPiite, who has lived in Maharashtra?

    This then is a country that has not yet learnt to live well with differences, far off, enjoy them.

    In this milieu, I think the Bengali emerges as a challenger to many existing power holds in different areas. For example, in Politics an area traditionally dominated by the UP / Biharis, Bengalis have, in the form of Pranabda, a heavyweight, whether good or bad, his influence cannot be ignored.

    In Cricket, with the exception of the late Nawab of Pataudi, who was truly a Tiger, I cannot think of anyone challenging the hegemony of the Wankhede club, till that boy from Kolkata stepped in. Is the vitriol drawn by him, anywonder? For a while we well overshadowed the master blaster himself. And Arnab’s “Good Boy” from “Farewell Sir” was an unknown till Greg Chappel used his serviced to KO Saurav. Is the intense dislike evoked by the latter, then, any wonder.

    Bengalis have enjoyed unparalled success in performing arts and continue to do so. They have also enjoyed some success in educated urban professions, from the Civil Services to Medicine, Science to Corporate Careers.

    This then is a community, that is a large group of people and visible by its very size, reasonably successful in many walks of life, living in a country populated by communities that dislike differences.

    To add to this rather conduce environment, Bengalis have a diet peculiar to their geography, large fish / unique vegetarian preparation dominated. As a community, I have found Bengalis as insular as any, and linguistically more so than say a Marwari or Gujarati or other business communities.

    The Bengali culture itself, with the exception of Durga Pujo, does not lend itself to easy assimilliation by others. Meaning, I can very easily adapt to Tandoori Chicken and Beer (which I know is a stereotype), but would find it much more demanding to adapt to Satyajit Ray and tea (which is another stereotype).

    Wonder, if I’m making any sense. Any comments?

  40. @Argumentative Indian- good analysis. But something about Bengal and Kolkata. I am a Bengali staying in Kolkata, I have stayed and worked in Mumbai, Bangalore and Gurgaon. In very honest terms, I don’t agree with the apocalyptical views on Bengal- not at all! In fact, I see an improvement in a lot of areas. Yes, the areas of deficit are still many, and we have a long way to go to catch up with Karnataka/Maharashtra/Gujarat etc. However, there recently seems to be an orchestrated media campaign against Mamata. Look, she has her flaws-who doesn’t?. She shoots from her mouth, is impulsive and makes some wrong decisions. But she is also doing good work, which unfortunately doesn’t get highlighted in the media at all. I wonder is that because the national media is (mostly) bought off by the ruling party? Case in pint being- before the Bengal elections media seemed a lot more friendly to Mamata- as she was in good books. Later when the fall-out happened, the negative stories started emerging! Again, not saying there is no wrong thing happening- but tell me, do you really believe infant mortality can go up suddenly in 6 months of change in power? That’s ridiculous- even if nothing is done, at least the structures put in place by the last government will sustain that. Truth is, it has always been happening- again, not something to be proud of, and needs to be brought down very quickly!- but media is playing a role here as well. My point, give her some time, if we have given the last government 34 years to finish Bengal, why not give the other party at least 5 years and then pass a judgement, instead of jumping on the bandwagon and criticizing just because its being considered cool to do so??

  41. Argumentative Indian March 21, 2012 — 10:55 am

    @ Sayan, thanks. I largely agree with your views, my second comment, is in fact on similar lines: “Is Kolkata / West Begal really the basket case we make it out to be?”. My answer is definitely no. Infact, I think WB has been progressing since the last decade. The state basically needs better press.

  42. @Rohan: you are truly a stellar idiot, u dont seem to get my point at all….as i said, the atrocities of CPM are not even reported to the extent. and i dont support what TMC is doing either (thanks for your links..btw, are those the only references? that too from TOI only?)

  43. btw, read local bengali newspapers …they report against both CPM and TMC. TOI is not the best source for those news. where do you live Rohan? seems like u read TOI only and live in a metro city. I am from rural Midnapur (within 10 km of where Susanta Ghosh and his “gang” live, and he is being hailed as a hero by CPM after he got the interim bail)…ex-CM Buddhadev wanted to axe both Susanta and Laxman Seth from the party, but who would bell the cat? he was too weak.
    Also a point to consider – in a democracy, majority dictates. so no matter how much we, the “intellectuals” (top x% of the society) crave for urbaization/industrialization, if that comes at the expense of daily breads of poor farmers (who of course are the majority with respect to vote bank), industrialization wont happen. period.

  44. what would I know March 21, 2012 — 2:08 pm

    Argh Indian: the propaganda against WB is mostly by people who have heard it from others, most have never stepped in WB. Its a popular perception though, helps a lot in preventing the abjectly poor/working class of rest of India specially in the hindi speaking areas from having any interest in Left Parties, because they ‘so bad as a ruling party’. Plus there is the ‘traitors’ factor. As for CPM and TMC comparison,there is none. Its like comparing Khichdi with Spurious Liqour

  45. Very well written, objective and dispassionate summarization of the political scenario in West Bengal, err…sorry it’s POSCHIM BONGO now (state name bonglicization is so far the only issue which got all-party shaapport in the bidhan shobha). Not many within the borders of the rajjyo have the will, the guts, the skills or the enaargy to write such an article. Bravo, greatbong.

  46. Bengal’s (Hindu Indian Bengal) economic & political woes (and as some would justifiably say “downfall”), began as a consequence the Partition, and the events running up to 1971 (a departure from the Punjab model). The intellectual degeneration, coupled with the increasing “golden age syndrome”, flimsily hides the wounds of a destitute religio-linguistic group. The generations that came after 1972 only refuses to face reality and address it, by running into the arms of alien utopian ideologies (versions of Communism and by extension Naxalism), that only exasperates thair woes.

    Mamata, as Arnab rightly says, is more Communist than the communists who ruled Bengal; which speaks volumes about the rot there.

    Ergo, it behooves educated Bengalis to address reality at the earliest, and affect changes that would rectify the earlier symptoms of their malady, ie, CPM and Mamata/Congress.

  47. @Sayan : Can you please highlight the positive work done by the TMC led state government citing some credible sources if you please.

  48. I remember you calling TMC the “New Left” or something of that sort in your previous post about this topic. But having established this fact I wonder as to what sort of political atmosphere lies (and has always lied) in Bengal. Ideally they should not be opting for either of the two. But they were passionately vouching for CPM and not TMC. That means no one wants a change over there, in spite of the general knowledge about both the options they’ve chosen till now.

  49. Typo in above post:
    But they(people of bengal) were passionately vouching for CPM and now TMC.

  50. Mr Patton Tank!!! ROFL

    It is said to see Derek O’Brien bending himself so low – school kids have always looked upto him as the source of wisdom and repository of (useless?) arcace facts as quizmaster of Bournvita quiz content !! I thought he was MLA under Anglo Indian quota and not TMC!!

  51. @Dibyo- 1. Work culture in govt. offices is improving, that typical come-at-11-play cards-drink tea-leave at 5 is going away, a fact I know for a fact being also driven by Mamata herself being a workaholic- govt officers/bureaucrats now get her calls at 11 in the night (sometimes) asking for some files/data- how do I know this? I have heard this from those guys themselves! 2. Infant mortality numbers are actually coming down, believe it or not! Long way to go- but people are trying! 3. Private vehicle operators without licences are being pulled up, taxis have been given a one month deadline to install latest printer-attached meters, else they will be taken off the roads! How do I know this? Just this morning, coming to office by a taxi- the taxi driver told this to me! Just a few points!

  52. Very impressive Sayan.Very objective and very well-cited. Let me tell you what I have been told: a bunch of bisexual CIA agents are crawling through Kolkata’s sewage system planting bugs everywhere. How do I know this? Just this morning, coming to office through a transporter beam, the helmsman told me. Meanwhile, here are some objective facts.

    All those calls at 11 which your friend told you of, not working too well are they ?

  53. @Rohan- I wont get into the typical online bile-spewing against each other that our generation is so good at doing:) Won’t serve any purpose. I never for once said everything is hunky-dory, and if you really want to, you can keep digging up these negative stats about every single minister in the cabinet. Again, no purpose. I just mentioned what I see and hear when I travel, stay and observe in my city- a city I love madly and would give anything to see it regain its past glory. I choose to see the positives-without overlooking the negatives- and just mentioned some postives I have seen. I rest my case. No more arguments.

  54. thanks Sayan. I wonder if people could live with the CPM for 34 yrs, why are they suddenly so demanding for a new govt? No one has a magic wand. And yes, one could always dig only the negative facts. In this universe, there is balance between negatives and positives (or matter and anti-matter 🙂 Negatives prove that positives exist and vice versa!

  55. Argumentative Indian March 22, 2012 — 2:50 pm

    @ Sayan. I fully appreciate that your observations are subjective based on casual feedback.

    However, in my limited experience across three industry categories, Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Auto Components and now Large Format Industrial Projects, I have found the feedback from the person on the ground, the rickshaw puller, the maidservant, the electrician, my daughter, the students in the college where my better half works, as invaluable early indicators. This is not data that can be validated by a Research Agency but that does not mean, I would ignore it.

    I’m aware of Didi’s faults, of which my personal, most hated fault being, the “Janta Hai Main Kaun Hoon?” syndrome, where goons from her party are above the law. This is not unique to her, most geriatrics in India do this all the time, I just hope she gets over it, before the people get over her.


  56. So all said and done about Mamata’s achievements and negatives as meticulously listed above like calling at 11PM for a file (are you f**king kidding me?), what is the timeline you are giving for Bengal becoming an Islamic Republic? Because from the same ground level observations what I can see we have at the most 15 more years before Bengal becomes completely dependent on Islamists and from there its one way cruise to Kashmir. Enjoy!

  57. Punjabis are shown in good light in all hindi films bcoz the films are made by punjabis.biharis are always servants in a hindi movie.punjabis are shown to be large hearted,loving their country etc,etc.but the truthis far dofferent.hindi movies and ekta kapoor serials have led to punjabification of hindi films many song lyrics are in punjabi

  58. God, don’t those stupid first commenters know there is no iPod and it’s an old joke already?

    Anyway, brilliant article. 🙂

  59. Excellent analysis Veena…the truth is quite far from the fiction peddled by bollywood or tv serials…the group in control of the media always try to put a biased view as the mainstream view. Even in Hollywood anglo-saxons are always portrayed as the good folk as opposed to other nationalities. Quite far from the truth..)))

  60. Focusing more on Derek, O’Brien .. I guess everyone had a lot of expectations from him and thought of him as quite progressive. Once he got the TMC nod for the Rajya Sabha he has been towing the TMC line meekly. Or maybe he does really agree with their stance of most stuff. Who knows.
    Anybody know of instances where Derek has been at loggerheads with Didi/TMC before?

    Here is my take on Didi and TMC today –

  61. And, than it’s not only in the TMC DNA… every other national or regional parties have more or less the same DNA, ironically.

    Weakest LINK

  62. I only have a little word of caution for everyone here- please do not treat all media bytes/stories/exposes as the gospel truth- we are too easily swayed by the media IMO, media are part of the system and play their part in the merry circus, at times making or breaking massive shifts in public opinion! And not all is clean in their cupboards- let me assure you….

  63. Bengal and Bengalis are a living farce and parody of the Indian intellect.The whole state and its people can be declared a biosphere reserve dedicated as a tribute to idiocy.

  64. Here comes more :

    Looks like you should have a section dedicated to Gaius Julius Mamata.

  65. @ Anonymous – thank you for coming over. Without pseudo intellectual morons & wannabes like you this place would be so boring. Your comment was appropriate given the lack of brains you have proven thus far. What are you 19? Have been drinking a lot… is it? oh that would be illegal for you…hope you are aware…so what have been you been smoking…whatever it is enjoy your smoke and if you are a boy with balls or a girl with cheeks then do come back…Asshole!

  66. Hi, We have started a petition on to appeal to TIME magazine to remove the name of Mamata Banerjee from th elist of 100 most influential people. Honestly, at a time when her actions are drawing mass criticism, her catapulting to a TIME list seems too co-incidental to be true. Please go through the petition and if you concur with our views, please sign it. And as you have so many followers, it would really help our cause if you could post the link on your blog. Here is the link:

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