Jan 31, 2013

Mam-Ban ki $#%#

Gimme some credit. I could go to jail for writing this. But since I live in Bangalore and not in Bengal, I'll take my chances!

Disclaimers: I am NOT a Maoist. I am NOT CPM cadre. I'm just an ordinary individual, NOT aligned to any political body of any sort. I'm NOT being paid to malign anyone. I'm just pissed.

It's 13th May, 2011. Friday night. I'm chilling in my flat, vodka in hand. Around 8pm, my bong friend walks in - all happy and enthu - and wants to celebrate Mam-Ban's victory in the West Bengal assembly polls. I greet her enthusiasm with dull skepticism, and ask her why she considers that good news. She says something about change, the end of a dark era of Left misrule, and generally communicates optimism. I retort with cliches about 'jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire' and how every change isn't necessarily good, no matter how terrible the past has been.

I quote the Joker (from The Dark Knight) to her: "You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just... *do* things." I share with her my apprehensions about Mam-Ban's mindless methods & motives in the past, and fears about her not doing well, now that she was no longer the 'hunter'. A couple of years later, I feel all my fears have not just been realized, but surpassed.

To be fair to my bong friends, it was an easy mistake to make. They were seriously frustrated with CPM rule, and surely change was needed. If I didn't know better, even I would've punted on Mam-Ban. Though I never really liked her, I didn't consider her any worse than most other politicians in India. Sure, she could be a bit of a nuisance - loud, unpredictable and inconsistent in her decision-making, switching back-and-forth between various alliances - but most of that is par for the course in Indian politics. One could have given her the benefit of any doubt.

But for me, the doubt vanished in 2008. At the time, Parliament was voting on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. It was a serious issue, and the numbers were quite even on both sides, creating great uncertainty. Mam-Ban was the only member of Lok Sabha from her party, and decided to abstain.

Now, here is how democracy is supposed to work. People elect representatives. Those elected are, in turn, supposed to represent the opinions and best interests of the electorate in parliament. That's their job. In this case, Mam-Ban simply decided not to do it.

The nuclear deal was either good for the people of Bengal, or it wasn't. The survival of the central govt was either in people's interest, or it wasn't. Either way, the MP is supposed to take a stand and vote! Not voting implies that your constituency has no stake, no interest and no opinion on the issue - but that wasn't the case here. In fact, if there is one thing a Bengali always has, it is an opinion!

So what was Mam-Ban's explanation for not doing her job? "The party did not want to be seen as supporting either the UPA govt, or the BJP-Left opposition."

Let's take a moment and think about this. The 'party' offered NO OPINION on the issue at hand - the nuclear deal. If that wasn't serious enough, the 'party' didn't care whether the central govt survived or fell. To them - it wasn't about the issues or the country or its interests. All they cared about was their own petty political rivalries. And yes, from the Left (CPM) to the Center (UPA) to the Right (NDA) - EVERYONE was a rival. This, to me, represented everything that was wrong with Indian politics. It's not about issues and ideologies at all, but about a few 'leaders' and their own ambitions.

If you look at Mam-Ban's history, it's always been about personal rivalries and opposing something. She started with the INC, against the ruling Left. Then she went against the INC to form her own party. Then she joined the govt at the center for some time, but her attention and actions were always focused on winning Bengal. And while at the center, she resigned from alliances and cabinet positions with both the NDA and the UPA on various occasions.

Basically, her politics has never been for any good. It's always been against whoever was in her path. Her actions and policies have been ill-conceived, destructive, reckless and self-centered. Railway finances and safety. Singur. Nandigram. NONE of these suggested that putting her in power would be a good idea.

While I didn't share any of my friend's optimism, I did hope the change in her situation might produce in change in her disposition. I mean, she could no longer raise hell every time she saw a real or potential problem - it was now her responsibility to solve it. She could not blame her opponents for all ills - they were no longer in power, she was. While her record as rail minister wasn't encouraging, one hoped for a better turn.

Alas, no miracles happened here. She's gone on to make a complete fool of herself and failed to make the transition from hunter to leader. Just watch this incredible display of ignorance, incompetence and idiocity.

The thought that someone like this is affecting major decisions about national policy, and is in charge of the administration of a state, should scare the crap out of any intelligent citizen. Her abilities in governance or administration are practically non-existent, and since she has a fairly long record with no major achievements in those areas, I don't think anyone would seriously debate that. Her policies, agenda and rhetoric are so full of SHITE, any good college student could debunk them with a few hours' effort. So let's get back to her politics.

Blaming the then govt. for economic problems might have worked when farmers were worried about losing their land. But now, every time any bad news emerges from Bengal - and it's happening increasingly often - she accuses the media of mendacity and exaggeration, and claims it's all a conspiracy to malign her govt. As usual, the issues are ignored - and the discussion becomes one about Mam-Ban vs. all her opponents, real or imaginary . The narrative is wearing really thin.

What's even worse - instead of feeling secure in the position she's achieved, she's becoming paranoid, delusional and more dangerous with dictatorial tendencies. The video of her walking out of an interview with CNN-IBN is already legendary. Most of you would know about the arrest of a cartoonist last year. But the worrying thing is - incidents like this are becoming so routine that they barely even make it to the news these days. After all, if Dinesh Trivedi could get swatted like a mosquito, what hope does an ordinary person even have? Death of democracy, anyone?

Unlike most of my posts, I'm not offering any ideas about the right way forward or any possible solutions. This was always meant to be a rant against someone who I consider to be the worst and most dangerous political leader in India. I just hope people don't vote for her, or anyone like here, ever again. Whatever produces leaders like this - it needs to change. Fast.

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