Saturday, May 09, 2009

Nandigram -- III

In many ways, the Communist government in West Bengal has been among the best in India since it assumed power over three decades ago -- most significantly on the issue of land reform (helping to deliver the state from the cycle of a repressive Congress government and a Naxalite insurgency); but also in terms of financial corruption and even-handed treatment of the state's different religious communities. Like virtually all of India's Marxist political parties, however, the CPI(M) remains intellectually hidebound, wedded to a Soviet-style conception of left politics that has increasingly made it seem like an anachronism in contemporary India, but given the abysmal standards of so many in Indian politics, the CPI(M) hasn't done too badly at all (it is currently in the process of trying to address the Indian middle class' most serious charge against it, namely that it has allowed West Bengal's industrial development to wither away on its watch).

All the more reason, then, for the CPI(M) to lose seats in West Bengal in the ongoing elections. Hopefully lots of them. For, as has been clear for years, but never more so than in the wake of Nandigram, the party structure has been utterly corrupted, its morality corroded by over thirty years of uninterrupted exercise of power in the state. And when the party's power is challenged, its dominant status gives it the power to kill, rape, and intimidate with impunity -- there is no other authority to appeal to, for especially in rural West Bengal, there is no meaningful distinction between the Communist party and the arms of the state. The CPI(M)'s electoral domination of West Bengal (facilitated, at least at the margins but really to an unknowable degree, by foul means) is, by now, bad for democracy (i.e., not just for state institutions but for democratic spaces in general), bad for any progressive potential in the CPI(M)'s program, and bad for progressive politics in general. A stint on the state opposition benches, or at a minimum a chastening loss of seats in the contingent of MPs sent by West Bengal to Parliament, will do both democracy, and the party, good.

In the meantime, there is the slow drip of continuing horror in Nandigram (but not only in Nandigram; it is only that the true nature of what the CPI(M) is becoming has been revealed there, because it has been met with resistance), atrocities such as those inflicted on the likes of Sabina Begum and Yaseen Meer.

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