I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Random thoughts on the West Bengal election: Confessions of a Social-Democrat

It is extremely unhealthy for a democracy if it is ruled by the same political party for more than three decades. I am happy to see the Left-front getting voted out of power.

I don't buy the perception, however, that West Bengal was ruined by 30 years of left-front rule. Contrary to the urban middle-class world view, the Left-front had some spectacular achievements in the early eighties, especially with regard to land reform; and some of the states that are touted as success-stories by neo-liberal propaganda have witnessed mass suicides by farmers. If we are to judge the progress of a state by the improvement in living standards of the overall population, rather than the number of shopping malls and high rise buildings in some urban pockets, CPM rule has by no means been pathetic. It is not a coincidence that the residents of Kolkata and non-resident Bengalis are traditionally opposed to CPM, whereas the party's main bastion used to be rural Bengal.

At the same time, I don't believe that the Left-front has done anything substantial in the past decade. If we rank the Indian states according to social indicators such as literacy rate and access to basic health-care, West Bengal falls somewhere in the middle of the list. There is one word that precisely defines today's Left-front - mediocre.

I resent the way the Left-front compromised the state's education system. All the appointments in the state universities, ranging from the administrative stuff and faculty members to the Vice-Chancellor, were influenced by CPM. The schools and colleges also came under the control of one omnipotent Party.

It is unfortunate that Mamata Banerjee is not a better alternative. Admittedly, she is an honest person who worked hard (and alone, for quite a while) to end CPM's dominance of West Bengal politics. But apart from her anti-left rhetorics, she doesn't have any constructive policies - economic, educational or otherwise. And to put it mildly, I don't respect the people around her - her inner circle of advisers who helped her stop the CPM juggernaut.

I consider myself to be a social-democrat. Yet I feel it was time for the CPM to go. To conclude, it is a pity that the only thing Mamata Banerjee has to offer is the end of CPM's hegemony.