“If none of us voted for Trinamool, how did they win?” When I got this message on Whatsapp from a friend, I couldn’t but help suppress a smile. It went on “Everyone I talked to are disgusted with Didi, and yet, how does it keep winning bigger and bigger every time.”
There was a time when those outside the state could not understand its politics, like how it kept voting for a moribund CPM government for over thirty years. Now even those inside don’t quite understand why.
But they should. They should understand it very well.
You see, when he uses the pronoun “us”, my friend is referring to a very small niche: Calcutta-based middle-to-upper-middle-class sub-class (scientific name: Bhodrolok) that congenitally suffers from an exaggerated perception of it’s own political influence. When they took the forefront of the fight against Buddhadeb over Nandigram, or felt they had, they had this expectation of “poriborton”, which was nothing but a projection of their fantasies of an Utopian Bengal onto someone (and I never tire of saying “I told you so”) who was an embodiment of the best, or the worst depending on your point of view, of the very political ethos they were ostensibly seeking a “poriborton” from.
And now that they see that things, for them and this is worth italicizing for them, have gone for the worse, they are angry and hurt in a “Maine Pyar Kyon Kiya” way, their rhetorical question laying bare a deeper truth.
That they have been made redundant politically.
Mamata Banerjee’s formula for success is the V 2.0 of the CPM’s. Unlike the Congress, where one particular surname eats up most of the fruit and throws the seeds and maggots to those below, CPM and now TMC flows down the fruits of power to the rank-and-file, with how much you get from the system being proportional to how much you put into it. So if you walk in a procession to Brigade Parade grounds you get two slices of toast, if you make your own banner you get a rosogolla to go with the toast, and if you provide muscle then you get your little syndicate, or as it is called “jobs for the boys” where all real-estate products and services have to be procured from select vendors blessed by the party else “I am sorry you are Maoist”. The biggest prizes of course go to to those that can bring blocks of votes—imaams and local clubs of lumpens, with compensation proportional to provided benefit.
Where the CPM differs from TMC and Didi is that the CPM, while playing this game, remained a party of bhadralok, or to be more specific, upper-caste, educated men in particular with a taste for caviar and wine and and Camus and Sartre and good Spanish literature. Hence their rhetoric and their metaphors were aligned perfectly with what the bhadralok were comfortable with hearing. Grabbing someone’s land and distributing it among party faithful sounds much cooler when it is called “land reforms” and leads to a case study in EPW than just “Maa Mati Manush”. Which is why Basu or Buddha would not be caught offering namaaz or making Yusuf Pathan dance or publishing the kind of verse Didi proudly puts her name to, because they were too bhodrolok for that.
Boddo barabari, they would say.
With Didi it is different. Unlike the CPM, her party has no ideology except unquestioned obeisance to Didi. In a way it is not much different from bowing to Lenin and Marx, but the bhodrolok felt more comfortable with the intellectual heft of that than the gigantic posters of Didi that dot the Calcutta cityscape without relent. Didi is many ways the ultimate testament to the establishment of a Communist society in Bengal, a proletariat ruler who wields absolute power with no tolerance for dissent and who shows big business their place (namely sends them out of the state), and yet she is too “telebhaja” and “Bangladesh is border of Pakistan” to be respected in the way Buddha and Basu were.
But Didi does not care. While she is open to throwing a buddhijibi a few scraps his way if he is willing to prostrate himself in a “Tohfa kabool ho” way, she knows that the Bengali intelligentsia are and have always been politically irrelevant. They do not vote in a bloc, and while they may carp in a few newspaper columns and generate more noise than votes, she can always dismiss them as media conshpirashy and her flock would have no problems with that. Far better to take oath in name of Ishwar and Allah, and by this get the undying gratitude of Park Circus without doing a single tangible thing for them, than to pine for bhadralok approbation.
After all, what’s the bhadrolok going to do? All they can do is to leave the state, as they do in thousands, every year. But come poll day, who are they going to vote for?
The CPM? That’s a brand beyond rescuing.
The Congress? Yes. Next.
Let’s see. On the face of it, it could be them. After all, they are primarily a middle-class party, or to use the proper term favored in Calcutta intellectual circles, a party of the petty bourgeoisie, that puts nationalism and development in its messaging. Except that the BJP has historically been perceived as a UP-Bihar party, whose obsession with temples and cow-protection and vegetarianism-as-a-surrogate-for-nationalism find no resonance in Bengal where even Brahmins eat meat. The BJP, to put it blandly, is a swear word among the bhodrolok of Bengal. The BJP also has really never taken Bengal seriously, and there is no greater testament to that than fielding P C Sarkar and Bappi Lahiri as candidates.
When you put Bappi Lahiri as a candidate, you are basically telling the electorate “We dont’ take ourselves seriously” and when you put P C Sarkar on the ticket, you are relying on magic to win the seat. Now with Roopa Ganguly and Babul Supriyo, they have crossed the joke-punchline level, though it will be years before they can seriously pose a challenge to Didi’s juggernaut.
So all that’s left for the bhodrolok is to raise their hands and wonder what happened, and then go and vote None of the Above on the day of the polls.
Welcome to poriborton. Welcome to obsolescence.
Do you have any problem?