Sunday, May 15, 2011

'Left' in the lurch

The landslide victory of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal is one of the best things to have happened to India in a long time. Not that I am very bullish on Mamata, but the ouster of the Left Front was something badly needed for the revival of West Bengal. As they say, it was a necessary, though not a sufficient condition to revive West Bengal!

To be fair to the Left, the Left Front leaders are honest and non-corrupt.  They have been known to have not compromised on their principles for the sake of power. In today’s political environment, these are exceptional qualities, and rarely seen in other political parties or their leaders. But that’s about it. That’s all that is there to the Left. Unfortunately, that’s not all that Bengal needs, it needs a lot more. And the Left could not give it to them, not in three decades.

There was a time when Bengal was the leading state in a prosperous Bharat. The British East India Company first set up shop in Calcutta, and did business from there. Later, Bengal was at the forefront of the freedom struggle, and produced several exceptional freedom fighters, who in turn inspired hundreds of others across the country to join the freedom struggle. Bengal suffered the most (along with Punjab) in the post-partition riots, but the Bengali spirit survived the blow. In Independent India, Bengal produced several exceptional and talented individuals. Take a look at the country’s think tank – the top bureaucrats, economists, journalists, bankers, sportsmen, artists, or in virtually any other field, Bengalis dominate. I myself have several Bengali friends & acquaintances, who I say are clearly above average, exceptionally sharp and intelligent. Bengali women are extremely beautiful, and the film industry has seen several of them.  

But still, Bengal is dying. Kolkata has already lost the number 3 slot among metros to Bangalore. And outside of Kolkata, things are just terrible. On most of the economic parameters today, West Bengal ranks at the bottom of the list among India’s states. The physical infrastructure in West Bengal is pathetic. The Calcutta Airport is no bigger today than what it was probably a quarter of a century ago, and resembles the airport of an underdeveloped African country. When I drove from Bagdogra to Gangtok in September last year, I was shocked to find the state of the roads even just outside the Bagdogra Airport. There were virtually no roads to speak of, just potholes, big large potholes. I asked my cab driver about it. He said it was monsoon. I persisted, asking him so what if it is monsoon, it is monsoon in Maharashtra as well, but the roads are not this bad. He said nothing. The people seemed to have resigned themselves to their fate. India’s economic resurgence, subsequent to the liberalization of the economy since the nineties, seemed to have completely bypassed this state. Thanks to the Left.

Now that the Left has been left behind, I hope it gives West Bengal a new lease of life.

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