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HomeOpinionsModi govt vis-a-vis Bengal politics: What can a policy of 'endless patience' deliver?

Modi govt vis-a-vis Bengal politics: What can a policy of ‘endless patience’ deliver?

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How good is it to read a ‘parable’ as a preamble to a political article? The reader’s indulgence is being sought hoping that in rare cases it may be profitable to do so to get a new perspective on how the ruling regime in the centre has been dealing with those in some states that tend to, more often than not, choose to defy its instructions, advisories, and urging. The parable goes like this.

The parable

One morning, a man narrated to his neighbour a terrible event that happened at his home the previous night. ‘You won’t believe it’, his face reflected emotions of shock, bereavement and surprise, ‘a thief had entered my bedroom at about 12 ‘0 clock in the night. Just imagine. I was sure that many in the neighborhood were not asleep by then! Even I was awake. But he gave a damn! I was just watching his audacity, you see ‘ The neighbor grew excited: ‘We were very much awake. Why didn’t you just raise a cry? We would have rushed in no time.’ The man pacified him, ‘B’coz I wanted to see how far he coud go. I was just pretending I am asleep but watching his every action through corner of my eyes. And you won’t believe, that wretch came and slipped his hand beneath my pillow and took the almirah keys! Still I did not catch him. I only wanted to see the limit of his misadventure.’ The neighbor now stood on one leg on excitement: ‘then?’.

The man resumed, ‘Then, that fellow opened the almirah and collected all cash and jewelries in one bed sheet and tied it securely. Can you believe it?’. After a pause, he resumed, ‘But I was giving him a long rope, after all how far could he dare to go?’ The neighbor was almost exasperated: ‘you still did not get up and catch him by his collar?’ The man cast a philosophic look at him and resumed with a heavy sigh: ‘No. I thought good sense will rise in him before I gave him a sound thrashing. But you know what! He just did not bother a wee bit. He then opened the door and went out with all my valuables. I could have taught him a lesson for his lifetime. I even had a license gun but did not take it out. I was just looking at that wretch’s sheer audacity!’

Decency & Dignity at the cost of Diligence & Duty?

Some well-meaning critics of the ruling regime at the centre may be tempted to warn it against treading a path similar to the ‘man’ in the parable vis-a-vis few regimes ruling the states, especially by its political opponents. They are keenly aware of the fact that the present regime at the centre values decency, dignity and adherence to constitutional propriety and a penchant for those values may be prompting it to pursue it a kind of complete ‘laissez faire’ policy vis-a-vis the states, even when intervention is called for in wider public interest.

Such a policy towards states, these critics argue, cost the ruling party a few states such as Rajasthan, Chattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh (since regained) and Rajasthan which were earlier ruled by it. However, the focus here remains on states ruled by its political opponents, West Bengal in particular.

The reservation of the Centre’s well-meaning critics stems from the perception that its policy has been of absolute non-interference. They worry that consistent unwillingness to impose consequences on its recalcitrant political opponents ruling some states who are trying to undo several of its key initiatives for the benefit of the nation is dangerous for the country. In the process it is allowing its opponents to rob it of its own political capital, which it will be hard put to recover. The strategy of its adversary in West Bengal is a good example.

Open defiance of the Centre

Amongst key nation building initiatives that the ruling regime at the centre has taken since 2014 are included Jandhan yojana, demonetization, GST, and Citizenship Amendment Act. All these measures were adopted in accordance with constitutional norms. However, the ruling regime in West Bengal criticized each of them. In last 3 cases it went to the extent of inciting people of the state against the Centre’s move. As a matter of fact, the deep antagonism generated against these visionary and nationalist initiatives in this state had later spread to few more opposition-ruled states, while the ruling regime at the centre just kept waiting for good sense to return to its rivals.

That did not happen. On the contrary, protests against CAA were sought to be aggravated by voicing imaginary fear of Assam-type NRC. Even NPR was resisted. In unprecedented move since independence, few opposition-ruled states passed resolutions in  respective legislative assemblies against an Act passed in the parliament of the country.

Political violence – a beneficiary of ‘laissez faire’ approach?

The defiance against the centre in the state extends in the form of ruthless suppression of political opponents. The Panchayat elections in West Bengal in 2018 witnessed unprecedented violence involving death of one dozen political workers on the very day of the election. The violence and retribution continued post poll and claimed several more lives. In nearly one-third of total seats, the opposition parties in the state were not able to file nominations for their candidates. The gravity of the violence  reflected from the fact that the Election Commission had to hold the Lok Sabha elections in the state in 2019 in 8 phases. According to media reports, the election was still bloody and rigged in wide swathes involving several booths making a mockery of democracy. But the Centre’s ruling party kept waiting for good sense to return in the party ruling the state!

Shaheenbagh- the lesson that was not learnt?

The well-meaning critics of the ruling party at the centre wonder if such a policy of endless patience benefits the nation or even the party itself politically! For example, it seemed to have been waiting endlessly at Shaheen bagh in Delhi. though It could have easily tackled what was essentially a law and order issue to the relief of lakhs of citizens who were tormented for few months. Instead there was an attempt to get a solution through the apex court.

What was the reason for its unwillingness to take decisive action? Probably waiting for good sense to return to the ruling party in the state. The other plausible explanation is that it had reckoned the public angered by their long sufferings, would teach AAP, the party ruling the state, a good lesson. But an astounding repeat victory by that party, despite its poor governance for five long years, conveys a serious political lesson. This immense verdict could be as well interpreted as reflection of public anger at the policy of endless patience and dereliction of duty on the part of the party ruling at the centre even though it was in position of complete authority to give relief to people.

Fighting Covid-19 in West Bengal- the role of the Centre

The latest issue is about fighting Covid-19 in West Bengal. There are media reports that speak about suppression of facts by the state machinery relating to the pandemic like the numbers of cases of infection and death. There are also reports that reveal worrying unpreparedness to tackle the pandemic in such a densely populated, economically impoverished state. Several political parties are levying charges against the ruling regime of the state of political corruption in distributing ration and using lockdown selectively for furthering partisan political interests.

Can the ruling regime at the centre remain unaffected by what happens in that state? Keeping sections of people hungry could be burst the dam of patience leading to a major law and order issue in the state, while selective implementation of lockdown could endanger the whole nation through spread of the pandemic. But again, the ruling regime at the Centre seems to be waiting for good sense to return in the party ruling the state.

Well-meaning critics of the Centre are keeping their fingers crossed. Will the policy of endless patience and unwillingness to take any drastic action help tackling the grave pandemic? Or, would it be like the action of ‘the man in the parable’, that threatens to snatch away all the political capital it has built up in the state over several years?

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