Can he contain them? Does he intend to contain them? For a change, these are questions not related to a Pakistani dictator and his ability to stop jehadis infiltrating into Indian territory. These questions are being asked about the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal and his inability to bring murdering marauders in his own state to heel. Over the last year, ‘Nandigram’ has changed from a proper noun invoked in the land acquisition vs industrial development debate to becoming a byword for an anarchic war zone that has claimed far too many lives. But is it anarchy that has made this region of East Midnapore, hours away from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Kolkata, a living hell? Or is it something more sinister being palmed off by the CPI(M) in Alimuddin Street as the handiwork of renegade party workers and Naxals?
The resignation of West Bengal Public Works Development Minister and senior Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Kshiti Goswami from Mr Bhattacharjee’s cabinet seriously challenges the government line that the ‘troubles’ in Nandigram have been cooked up by renegades and Trinamool Congress cadres. Mr Bhattacharjee’s unwillingness to admit that CPI(M) cadres — Frankenstein’s monsters or willing members of the party’s Dirty Tricks Department — have brought death and destruction in their bid to reclaim ‘traditional’ control of Nandigram has seriously damaged the CM’s credibility. Last week’s police firing that claimed more lives has made Mr Bhattacharjee’s middle-class supporters suddenly sceptical of what he can deliver. Despite his ‘bhadralok’-ness, this is a man who, as minister in charge of Home (Police), knows that things can get dirty when they are ‘required’ to get dirty. In any case, a failed Chief Minister is not judged by the cause but by the effects, something that has been for months on end all too plain to see.
The CPI(M) can’t explain things away by invoking the ‘one party-many branches’ line every time things get ugly and visible. If Nandigram is indeed a case of the famous party discipline breaking down in the face of territorial lusting, Mr Bhattacharjee must explain why he didn’t crush those who resisted the CRPF until they were entrenched in the area again. Couldn’t. Didn’t. It doesn’t make a difference for Nandigram’s hell-struck people.