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Time changes things

Mamata Banerjee has proved that even West Bengal can vote for the new, writes Prasenjit Chowdhury.

india Updated: May 17, 2011 22:37 IST

I don’t know if German palaeontologist Michael Prauss, who studied 65-million-year-old fossils in Texas and who argues that radical changes to the flora and fauna of the era eventually wiped out dinosaurs from earth, could be persuaded to examine the extinction of the Leftists in West Bengal. But one finds a similarity of circumstances between the dinosaurs and the Leftists — both failed to adapt to the changes in their respective environments. And if you believe that the extinction was actually caused by a massive asteroid slamming into earth, could the asteroid here be named Mamata, one might politely ask?

Carl Sagan pointed out that things, apparently immutable too, do change, albeit slowly, as it took nearly two billion years for us to change into human beings from microbes, a half a billion years from fish, ten million years from arboreal apes and a million years from proto-humans “puzzling out the taming of fire”.

Take the instance of some technologies, which promise to change our lives in the 21st century. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technologies and cognitive science are registering such fast progress that we feel overawed. Indeed, we are living in exponential times.

Nothing changes like change. Despite that the environmental aspects of climate change alarm me. But while some changes are unsought, the propensity for change is natural with human beings.

In India, language, food and culture changes every 80-100 km, making its fashion as diverse as the culture and tradition of the country. My little girl always wants to replace older toys with the newer ones. I have always wanted to change my job. Many of my friends keep changing their cell phones with as much alacrity as they change their girlfriends. Save so far, the people of West Bengal who remained stubbornly resistant to change for 34 long years.

But that was until May 13, 2011. In fact, rarely before has the word ‘change’ assumed so looming and cosmic a significance in this woebegone state, shortchanged by the ruling Left for over three decades, until there appeared a game changer in the person of Mamata Banerjee. In dislodging the longest-serving communist government of the world, she scored a feat in politics paralleled only by the likes in Nicholas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Georges Lemaître, James Watson and Francis Crick and Niels Bohr, who changed the world with their feats in science.

Am I being effusive? Am I exaggerating? How can I compare Banerjee with such illustrious people? Like Copernicus, she disproved that it was the people who revolve around the Party; like Newton she drove home the message to the Left and to the world that political leaders must not pull away from people by trying to ignore gravitational forces; like Faraday she became the beacon of light of hope to the people of a moribund state; like Darwin she evolved the agitational politics of stridency, practised by the Left, to mobilise people against the CPI(M); like Einstein she proved any delusion of grandeur as only relative, reducing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s boast in the assembly elections of 2006 of a Left haul of 235 seats by almost reversing the tally in 2011; like Lemaître she imploded the Left from within into a Big Bang and like Watson and Crick she found the double-helix structure of the Left DNA — the twisted warp of power and conceit to undo any regime.

“They always say time changes things,” Andy Warhol said, “but you actually have to change them yourself.” Now that this has been done by the people of West Bengal, Banerjee must think about opening a business school in the state that specialises in ‘change management’ to facilitate a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals/teams/organisations from the current state to a desired future state. Cadre raj, militant trade unionism, partisan police force, habitual obstructionism — some old habits that die hard — could be objects of serious study.

( Prasenjit Chowdhury is a Kolkata-based writer )

The views expressed by the author are personal