Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bengal’s Rightward Ho!

Off the Track

Bengal’s Rightward Ho!

Arindam Ghosh-Dastidar

Let there be peace, without a renewed bout of reprisal and counter-mobilisation. The verdict must be respected. This is the certitude of a democracy, indeed the form of governance that is under threat from India to Indonesia. Democracy is not just about voting. Democracy is about the results of votes being implemented. This is the parable to be drawn from the ‘breaking news‘ on the 23rd of May, 2019. The split in the Communist Party of India has been an earthquake in West Bengal. The breakup of what used to be a monolithic party seems proceeding with a whimper rather than a bang. ~ The Statesman’s editorial, “Not with a bang” ~ 17 April 1964 Kolkata was eerily silent on a normally bustling Thursday. Promode Das Gupta and Jyoti Basu, architects of the Communist movement, would have deemed the shock and awe as almost unbelievable. Just as Atal Behari Vajpayee would have been delighted beyond measure over the surge of the Right. If in radically different ways, all three were statesmen of a caliber that is now a scarce commodity in the India of today. A sense of collective jaw-dropping has greeted the result of the Lok Sabha election in West Bengal. Across the spectrum of parties and politics, the entity that was quite the most astonished on Thursday afternoon, when the leads were beamed on television screens, was the Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal. Not the least because the politically conscious electorate of the state had voted overwhelmingly for the Left in seven successive elections between 1977 and 2006 ~ a record of sorts in the international Communist spectrum. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) will have to reconcile itself to zero representation from Bengal in the 17th Lok Sabha. Having languished as a legislative non-entity in the Assembly till a few years ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party has now won 18 seats (out of 42) in the Lok Sabha from West Bengal ~ ascending from two seats in the 2014 election. The saffron party is now just four seats behind the Trinamul Congress, and has thus earned for itself the No. 2 slot in the state’s political spectrum. Even the party’s detractors will readily concur that this is a spectacular feat. It is palpable enough that many, who had voted for the Left from 1977 to 2006, have now pressed the EVM button in favour of the Right. This is the quirk of Bengal politics, such as it is today.

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