The Tapas Bar


Long time readers of my blog would remember that at a time that the Bangali bhodrolok were cheerleading Didi’s agenda of poriborton, I had sounded what had then seemed to be a discordant note. My contention had been that there would be a poriborton under Mamata Banerjee, but for the worse, a roll-back to the dark old days of the 70s and the 80s, because while she remained pathogenically opposed to the CPM as a party, she fully endorsed the CPM’s strategy of agitation and governance.

A few years down the line, I am proud of my Paul  the Octopussness. The hold of Trinamool Congress over Bengal is absolute in the way Jyoti Basu’s CPM’s once was (Buddha’ s CPM tried to be different, albeit imperfectly, and that’s what led to its downfall). Like the CPM party, the TMC has been absorbed into every organ of the administration, the “government” and the “party” is one and the same. The police, like it was during the darkest days of CPM’s rule, is an extension of TMC, incapable of independent function. The opposition has been decimated, through absorption (many of the CPM’s muscle has just crossed parties), through exclusion (If you are not TMC, you will find it difficult to ply your trade in the state of Bengal) and, as Tapas Pal’s recent video so amply demonstrates, through direct threats of violence.

Again nothing new in Bengal. The CPM had done it for decades. Now it’s TMC’s turn.

There is however one point of distinction between Jyoti Basu’s CPM and Mamata’s TMC, one thing fairly new. The CPM had a well-defined ideology and a well-defined pantheon of Gods (Lenin, Marx, Stalin [before it became unfashionable], Mao). The Trinamool has nothing. It has no core ideology, unless you can decipher what “Ma Mati Manush” means, and one true God namely Mamata Banerjee. Jyoti Basu’s CPM had its “sucking up to Jyoti-da” but there were many other ways of expressing once’s  Communist chops—railing against American imperialism, or writing a Bengali translation of Marx, or closing a factory, or successfully organizing a bandh. The only way however a leader in TMC can express his “TMC-ness” is by speaking in the voice of the Supreme Leader. That’s why they fall over themselves in singing paeans of her glory, whether of her as a politician or as a painter of pictures or as an inspiration for every decision they take. And what is the one sure-shot way of getting into Didi’s good books? Simple. Be as anti-CPM as you possibly can, because if there is one thing that has been constant about Mamata Banerjee through the decades, it has been her pathogenic hatred of the CPM . Which means that for any TMC leader trying to advance up the party pole, the more egregious you make your demonstration of CPM-hatred, the more your Ma-Mati-Manush points.

Tapas Pal’s recently leaked speech, which has caused much outrage in the national press, has to be seen in this context. It’s not his only “leaked speech” out there, it is one of several, made over a period of time, almost identical to each other. In each of them,Tapas Pal, once Bengal hero of mediocre weepies and Bollywood-rip-off-low-budget action flicks, works himself into the Bengali equivalent of a “Zulm ko jalakar rakh kar doonga” frothy rage, using words and imagery that he knows would appeal to a rural crowd, a demographic where his films and his dialog-baazi are still insanely popular. He is of course galvanizing the base, and getting a few claps, and making the scattered CPM supporters piss in their dhotis in fear. Which, of course, is all good clean fun. But what he is also doing, and this is a big part of the “why”, is auditioning for a bigger part in the TMC political scheme of things by building his anti-CPM street cred.

But true to form, Tapas Pal over-hammed himself and said something that sent him over the proverbial line. He told his “boys” to go and rape CPM women.

Not that his audience found this particularly offensive, because they cheered.

Not that rape isn’t used to intimidate and subjugate political rivals in Bengal. CPM activists raped protester Tapasi Mallik during the Singur agitation, and TMC activists stand accused in the recent Amta gang rape, where the wife and mother-in-law of a CPM worker were raped.

Not that the Trinamool, as a party, subscribes to a culture that is inherently sensitive to rape and rape victims. I mean, who can forget, Mamata Banerjee, after the horrendous Park Street rape case, called it  “cooked-up in order to malign her government”, to which a Trinamool Member of Parliament jumped up to get Ma-Mati-Manush points by saying the rape was a “business transaction gone wrong”.

The reason why Tapas Pal got himself into a slight soup was because the clip got the attention of the national media. Post Delhi-gang-rape, the urban Indian middle class has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards rape, from it’s casual use in conversation to its use as a weapon of intimidation. For a party with national ambitions, Tapas Pal’s speech, played out in a loop on the channels, was an embarrassment. And so Didi became extremely “distraught” .  Of course that meant Tapas Pal had to issue an “unconditional apology” . Immediately the issue was deemed as resolved by the TMC, even though what Tapas Pal had just confessed to was a crime in the eyes of the law, and the state ought to be obliged to initiate legal proceedings against him. Or so I believe. But then in Bengal, the only speech that gets people sent to jail is making fun of Mamata Banerjee in an email forward. Last heard, the TMC was engaging in what Manish Tiwary would call “self introspection” by trying to find out who it was that leaked the video to the press, by forcibly going through the cell-phones of those who attended the meeting.

In all this though, one important issue gets short shift. Namely the rest of Tapas Pal’s speech, the part that should have gotten the same attention as the rape remark. If you listen to the entirety of Tapas Pal’s rant, there are lurid calls to violence, in extreme and gratuitous detail, with assurances that nothing will happen to the perpetrators, because Tapas Pal, and by extension the administration of which Pal is but a part, will always be with them. While the open call to rape is unique in this instance, the rest of the “maim and kill” narrative is reflected in other speeches of Tapas Pal, including one made years ago. As a matter of fact, there are other TMC leaders like Arup Chakraborty[video], Monirul Islam [video], Anubrata Mondal [video], who have been captured on tape saying essentially the same thing, “do all kinds of horrible things to opponents of the TMC and we are here for you”. Yet all of them remain important functionaries within the TMC, None of them have “dismayed” Didi at all and none of these fine leaders have been asked to apologize.

And that’s not surprising because this is straight out of the old CPM playbook, the one that kept them in powers for three decades and more.

Which explains why nothing will happen to Tapas Pal. Because if you censure Tapas Pal in a way that really matters, the wrong message will be sent to the rank and file. I mean if the guy who is saying “I will protect you even if you kill” can’t himself be protected, then what use his assurances?

In a way things are even worse now than they used to be under the CPM.  Post 1984, West Bengal at least had Didi to keep the Left honest. While the rest of the Congress (there was no Trinamool then) was truly the B-team of the CPM, as Didi so appropriately called them, satisfied with fighting for the scraps the CPM threw their way, Mamata Banerjee was, for years, the only opposition in town. Driven by that deep vein of hatred of the Left, she was beyond absorption, bribery, intimidation or any kind of compromise. She would have closed Calcutta down had the Park Street rape case happened on the CPM watch. And she would have closed it down again if Tapas Pal had been a CPM apparatchik.

Now of course there is nothing .

Except the sight of blue-and-white painted buildings and massive cut-outs of Didi extolling the glorious achievements of the Trinamool Congress.

And the sound of scared silence.



17 thoughts on “The Tapas Bar

  1. Exactly!
    (One typo in the last paragraph: Congress–>CPIM.)

  2. Exactly!

    (One typo in the last para: Congress–>CPIM.)

  3. Something tells me that she would not enjoy as long a tenure that CPI(M) did. She’ll depreciate far faster. It’s of course another thing that she would team up with CPI(M) someday to ward off the “communal danger”.

  4. B-team of Congress. Should be CPM.
    Loved the post.

    Just a thought – Poriborton for ‘poriborton’s sake’ was perhaps necessary that time as CPIM had become untolerable by then. Should have been earlier. Don’t know how the so-called intelligentsia sympathised with Mr. Basu for so long. Sad part was Buddhadeb’s considerable attempts to revive the state went wasted. If nothing, there was hope (of job creation) then. Now it’s nothing!
    In other news, TMC had contested the last election solely on the plank of development. Unlike other parties, including the current party in power. As claimed by Derek and several other local thought leaders.
    It’s circus being played out to the perfect precision possible!

  5. Trivedi too had said it would be Jhanda Bodol and not PoriBorton. Colors of flag only will change. Like colors of building cosmetic change. Red writers building to blue-white Nabannya . With the state state economy has reached people need govt patronage and crumbs for survival.Alternative is migration out of Bengal. Probashi son’s and daughter’s ahen and if they return are only remaining hope. The home grown and tamed intellectuals have grown into mafioso.

  6. Well exactly how our opinions matter?
    The most we can say/blog/post/socialize gets simply ignored/crushed/suppressed. The truth is it’s the “Audience” the “Public” you have to please. And sadly its much better to just “act” (no pun intended) to a rural/semi-literate audience than to a little more educated one.

    অল্প বিদ্যা ভয়ঙ্করী

  7. Dosh ta ki kono party r? Naki aamader collective bhiru attitude er? Naki amader collective hypocrisy r? Buddhadeb er koyek bochhor chhaaRa positive news kokhono shunini poshchim-bongo thekey. Dadu-dida der mukhey Bidhan Roy er shukhyati shunechhi. Naholey poshchim-bongo beshir bhaag shomoy I ondhokaar.
    Aami stereotyping e bishwash kortey bhaalo baashi na, kintu maajhey maajhey shondeho hoye. Bangali manosikota I ki aamader ei obostha r karon? Jyoti/Mamata r ghaaRey shob dosh chaapatey ichchhey korey na.

  8. Nirod C Choudhury had diagonsed correctly. One – Bangalis are suicidal; Two – Bengal soil is quick sand for capable bangali, with no escape. Additionally, as per one genetic specialist – within 30 generations(from 1990) bangalis shall be totally unfertile.
    Looking around – there are no evidences to contradict.

  9. The incident does not bother me as much as the lack of hope its aftermath has produced. TP’s comment had infuriated me. The reactions are actually scaring me.

  10. JePotherSheshNei July 6, 2014 — 3:43 pm

    I do sincerely hope that the Bengal Police do not have jurisdiction in your physical location.

  11. Nice post !! Being an avid reader of your blog, this’s the 1st time I do no t have anything to criticize.. Truth is Bengali bhadalok is a Bhitu at the core of his heart..

  12. We’ll written. Is Bengal turning into a gulag . Once Bengal was at the pinnacle of intellect and contributed maximum even to cause of freedom from British rule. Thought leaders and reformers came from bengal. Now Bengalis are still excelling but Bengal is decaying. How they have become so meek or co opted into system. But ALS
    As same is the story across India – in u.p. Bihar, Kerala. … U name it.

  13. Does Didi model herself after the Fat Lady from the South -especially given her obsession in emerging as a “national leader” despite very little in evidence that could even be remotely construed as encouraging signs -from empty seats at her Ram Leela Maidan rally to her non-starter of a rally in next-door Patna?The personality cult and the abject devotion demanded of her supporters would indicate that.

    I also wonder as to what would happen to TMC post Didi.I posed the same question to my friend from TN who felt that Amma was so very convinced of her own greatness that such a question would not have even occurred to her, let alone her supporters who would consider such thoughts nothing short of high treason.

  14. Gender has ceases to be of any relevance in todays politics.i am not surprised to see some shameless moron degrading women, for this has been going on from God knows since when but wat is even more disgusting is tat these so called custodian of women’s dignity find supporting these creature more moral than speaking up for women.mamta didi ….first b a human then a woman n then a politician..but once u become a politician being a human is just out of question…

  15. I know some people who voted for TMC in 2011 election and later regretted it as a mistake. It’s like from frying pan into the fire. This is the consequence that we have to suffer until the next “poriborton”. Despite so much uproar and criticism by the media she is quite comfortable in sharing stage with her two “murder accused’ brothers Monirul and Anubrata,. So, what else can we expect except a lenient Didi saying – What do I do? Shall I kill him? …sounds ridiculous, but leaves a dangerous message…

  16. Ahem … a small typo : “one important issue gets short shRift”

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