In the late 1960s, legendary Congress leader Atulya Ghosh was branded by the Leftists as “Kana Atulya” (blind Atulya) as he wore dark glasses most of the time. After the assembly elections in 1967, “kana begun”, or insect infested brinjals were hung at several places.
The present day Anubrata Mondals or Anil Basus can find pleasure in knowing that they are not pioneers but followers of a tradition in Bengal’s politics which has often been smeared by obscene remarks and personal attacks.
It seems, however, the trend is taking menacing proportions.
Several Trinamool Congress leaders have recently hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Leading the pack is Birbhum district’s president, Anubrata Mondal, whose inflammatory remarks have forced the State Election Commission to ask the administration to take action.
Mondal asked his party supporters to ransack and set on fire the houses of persons who have filed nomination as independents in the panchayat elections.
He added that if the police prevented them from doing so, they should be bombed.
His party colleague and MP Tapas Pal told an election meeting in Nadia that CPI(M) supporters should be hit by shoes.
These two are the latest in producing statements, which have embarrassed the ruling party.
Many of their colleagues, throughout the controversy over election dates and deployment of central forces, have also systematically attacked the State Election Commissioner and its chief, Mira Pande, which bordered on obscenity.
State’s transport minister Madan Mitra stated that he never considered the election commissioner to be a good-looking woman.
Their party boss, Mamata Banerjee, mimicked the Prime Minister in a television show and has been repeatedly issuing threats to the media for not toeing her line.
There is much hue and cry among civil society over the consistent attack on a constitutional body.
These attacks were veiled in strong words which can be interpreted as threats directly accusing Mira Pande of being a CPI(M) stooge because she got her appointment during the Left regime.
The sustained attack on the SEC can be explained if we examine another case.
It was in the nineties when the chief election commissioner of India (CEC), TN Seshan, was in an overdrive to push electoral reforms in India. He pressed for voters’ ID cards and revision of the electoral rolls, stressing on complete reformation of the voting process.
The CPI(M) saw red as much of its electoral successes were attributed to tampering of the voting process at various levels. The issue was discussed at the top party level. Angry at the CEC’s overdrive, Jyoti Basu, the then chief minister, called Seshan names and said he was a “megalomaniac”.
The tussle between the opposition and the ruling party or the party in power and a constitutional authority is not new.
It stems from the sense of insecurity of a possible threat that would challenge the authority, or the seat of power.
The crisis of the ethical issues in a democratic set up has been compounded by the insecurity of political parties in holding on to winning seats, be it in panchayats or assembly constituencies.
Whenever there has been an inroad of the opposition in the territory, an aggressive stand has been taken. In public rallies particularly, leaders have resorted to inciting statements to boost the morale of party cadres or issue a threat to the people.
Media analysts point out that disrespectful words stem out of politicians mouths just when they are threatened and pushed to a state where their authority is challenged.
It happened in early 1970s when the Naxalite movement was reaching its crescendo and many CPI(M) cadres were joining the ultra Left forces.
There was an ideological crisis and a desperate CPI(M) leadership could not prevent the desertions, particularly in Andhra Pradesh.
Pramode Dasgupta, the undisputed leader of the Marxists made an angry comment: “Are the police bullets covered with nirodh (condoms)?” referring to the police inefficiency in curbing the movement.
Three decades later, Anubrata Mondal and his ilk are mouthing statements, which explain their threatened positions.
It is interesting to note that Mondal ordered arson in the homes of independent candidates (not the arch rival CPI(M)), his one-time party comrades, who have threatened to ruin Trinamool Congress’ electoral gains in Birbhum.
Anil Basu, a CPI(M) MP for seven terms, never uttered obscenities till his position as the supreme leader of Arambagh subdivision in Hooghly district was threatened in 2011.
At a pre-election rally, he stated how Mamata Banerjee was entertaining bigger “clients” at the cost of smaller ones. He apologised later.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee maintained his gentlemanly self till his supremacy to take a call on Bengal matters was shaken post the Singur-Nandigram episode.
He lost his composure when he stated in public that “heads will be broken” if any one tries to create trouble.
It will be unwise to brand any political party as the prime accused in showering abuses in public. In Bengal, they have a sustained track record and all of them have violated the unwritten rules of democratic decency time and again to attack opponents.
A CPI(M) central committee member advised women to show their buttocks to Trinamool leaders in Nandigram while an opposition leader described a CPI(M) lady member in the state assembly as a witch and later branded another lady a sex worker during the bedlam that followed his earlier statement.
A prominent member of Forward Bloc threw rotten eggs within the assembly house.
And, this tradition continues…