Our electoral kaleidoscope often configures colourfully bizarre patterns. Among these is the Bengal anti-Left opposition’s apparent invocation of the Walrus in Alice in Wonderland (Chapter IV, Through the Looking-Glass). The Walrus while leading the oysters only to devour them, says: “The time has come,/To talk of many things./Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax,/And cabbages and kings./And why the sea is boiling hot,/And whether pigs have wings.”
Indeed many things are being said. The Congress president, perhaps recollecting Rajiv Gandhi who described the City of Joy, Kolkata, as a ‘dying city’, said that the people of Bengal have been fooled continuously by the Left Front for the last 35 years! The pm attacking the CM said, “They (Left) don’t have a policy of development.” Sounds incredulous, as this very PM a few years ago praised the CM and “greatly admired his wit and wisdom, his qualities of head and heart, his courage of conviction and his passionate commitment to the cause of the working people of India and in particular, to the people of Bengal”. Clearly, praise or condemnation is conditioned by the political allies required to continue in office — UPA 1 needed the Left support, UPA 2 needs the Trinamool Congress. We shall return to something more interesting that the PM said later.
The home minister went further saying that “West Bengal is the worst governed state in the country”, stating that the Left was “turning the state into a killing field”. Even before this sound and fury settled, came the alleged revelation of Kim Davy, mastermind of the diabolical Purulia arms-drop in December 1995. Clearly, this is an international conspiracy with people from at least six countries involved. It is a grave threat to India’s security. The allegation is that these arms were to feed Anandmarg’s incendiary anti-communism, whose delivery was facilitated by the then central government that sought to destabilise the duly-elected Left Front government by engineering violence.
How did a plane carrying such a huge cache of arms enter Indian air space? If it was a lapse, then it is serious. If, as alleged, this was due to connivance, then it is more serious. Any effort by the Centre to destabilise an elected state government negates the Constitution. Further, where have these arms gone? According to the submission of the Central Bureau of Investigation to the special sessions court, Kolkata (February 2000), of the dropped 500 AK-47’s only 87 have been recovered, and of the 15 lakh rounds of ammunition and other deadly weapons only a fraction has been recovered. Are these un-recovered arms responsible for the ‘killing fields’ of the home minister’s variety? In the interests of the country’s security, these questions need answers.
It is essential to know how Davy was allowed to escape. It is also essential to know how the BJP-led NDA government, which included the Trinamool Congress recommended a presidential pardon for Peter Bleach, sentenced for life imprisonment by the Indian courts. This can best be done through an independent judicial inquiry that must be immediately constituted.
Let us return to the PM’s remark: “They (Left) don’t have a dream to offer to the youth.” Dreams are an extremely
complex phenomenon that have engaged the attention of the most creative of human minds from times immemorial. More often, however, they serve as an escape into imaginary worlds leaving behind the burdens of the real world. The Left loathes such escapism into illusory worlds. It, instead, puts forward a vision that seeks to change the existing realities to create a better world.
Dream merchants, on the contrary, spread illusions benumbing the faculties of the youth rendering them more status quoists than agents of change. Take for instance this dream of ‘Shining India’, aggressively pedalled by the NDA and silently pursued by the UPA 2. This ‘dream’ has resulted only in the creation of two India’s that are far removed from each other — 69 dollar billionaires have an asset value equivalent to one-third of our GDP, while out of the rest of the 121 crore Indians, over 80 crore struggle to survive on less than R20 a day!
This ‘dream’ also has set in motion policies of economic liberalisation, which engender crony capitalism of the worst kind. The consequent mega scams are depriving India of realising its true potential. The National Advisory Council estimates an annual expenditure of R88,000 crore for its food security bill with an inadequate but forward moving provision for 35 kg of food grains (R3/kg) for all families (APL and BPL). The National University for Education Planning and Administration estimates an expenditure of R1.75 lakh crore over a period of five years to put every single child in school for free and compulsory education. The amounts looted in these scams are many times more than these numbers. These scams are depriving India from becoming hunger-free and fully-educated. This is the story of ‘dreams’ pedalled by such dream merchants who end up as merchants of misery and death.
India can ill-afford the Hamlet’s dilemma: “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...”
Dreams that lull our youth must be discarded in favour of a vision that will shape a much better future for India. In the final analysis, it is the battle of visions that has created India as we know of today. It is the outcome of the battle among three visions — Left, neo-liberalism and communalism — that will shape India’s future. It is this battle of visions that is reflected in the electoral battle in Bengal.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal