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Power from the people

india Updated: May 13, 2008 01:56 IST
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The word ‘power’ has evolved into two disparate but related meanings. The more banal of the two refers to the production and distribution of energy for industrial and domestic use. The other meaning, the favourite object of inquiry of philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault, refers to a complex mechanism by which authority is applied to help sustain predominance and strategies of exploitation. But the application of the second sort of power is neither defined nor sustained by theory alone. It is applied everywhere and is a mighty arsenal throughout history. Just ask the communists. Thankfully, hardboiled comrades exist these days in pockets and are now employing power of the second kind by using power of the first kind.

Take the incident that took place in West Bengal on Wednesday when Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi voluntarily shut off the lights at Raj Bhavan as a symbolic gesture to show his disapproval of the dismal power situation faced by the people of this state reeling once again from ‘load-shedding’.

His act was not guided by any declared animosity towards the ruling CPI(M) government. As an informed citizen, Gandhi did what he did. One might have problems with his kind of symbolic act, but the way the CPI(M) leaders lashed out against him took one’s breath away. They have called him a ‘hypocrite’ and a constitutional over-reacher abetting the Opposition. Exactly how the allegations apply to his act of switching off Raj Bhavan lights is anybody’s guess.

A news report the very next day after the comrades reacted to Gandhi showed that West Bengal has scored very poorly in rural electrification. In other words, villages — surely the core target group of a communist regime — are dark while the power of the CPI(M) continues to be felt in every nook and cranny of the state. To trace the CPI(M)’s belligerence towards Gandhi one must remember that during the two bloody episodes in Nandigram last year, the Governor had refused to be a silent spectator and came out strongly against the ruling party for perpetuating violence.

In a sense, the rabid reaction from the CPI(M) leaders is a good thing. Finally, their political bankruptcy is coming to light. So what if there isn’t sufficient power in the state? Electric power, that is.