The cult of political violence in West Bengal remains so triumphantly unabated that even the otherwise circumspect and measured M.K. Narayanan has had to do some plainspeaking. The governor of West Bengal has declared that “goondaism” is the political culture of the state whose people have always believed that in terms of political maturity, they are ahead of the rest of India. But that pride has rung increasingly hollow in recent years as politics lost sight of public goals and was reduced to armed skirmishes over territory and revenue streams.
One such skirmish broke out on Sunday in the politically sensitive area of Bhangar, very close to Kolkata, when the Trinamool Congress reportedly launched a sustained attack on CPM cadres. Senior CPM leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah has been seriously injured and on Tuesday, an attack on a CPM rally left three people with bullet wounds and the expressway littered with burning vehicles. Arabul Islam of the TMC, accused of leading the attacks, immediately sought refuge in the ICU of a nursing home, complaining of breathlessness. The governor appears to have lost his patience when the TMC lauded Islam for teaching the comrades a lesson. The Left, which has had to retire hurt from this skirmish, may actually have scored politically.
A change of guard has not changed the political culture of West Bengal. It may even be possible to predict that should the Left return to power, it will resume its old, hegemonistic ways. To her credit, when Mamata Banerjee came to office in 2011, she had restrained her cadres from unleashing the bloodbath that the Left had quietly braced for. For the rest, however, the TMC has shown no interest in abjuring violence. Indeed, if anything, the present dispensation — which includes elements inherited from the disarrayed ranks of the Left — appears to be less constrained by ideological concerns. The reoccupation of Nandigram had shown that the CPM regards politics as war by other means. And with the battle of Bhangar, the TMC has perpetuated that regressive idea. That’s poriborton.