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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 16, New Delhi, April 3, 2021

A Note on Politics in West Bengal | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 2 April 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen

The term ‘politics’ does not carry any single meaning. The following observations enrich our understanding of politics:

“The people at large exist in an oblique relationship to politics, watching over and asking questions of the political class...the people are indeed reluctant political beings who take to the streets once in a while and when absolutely cornered. Otherwise, people go about the business of life and living, and sometimes voting. But this does not mean that people are antipolitical or apolitical”. (Prathama Banerjee, Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South, Orient BlackSwan, 2021)

The notion of politics embedded in the above observations, found expressions in the recent protests of the people of India against the Citizenship Amendment Act and farm laws passed by the BJP government in power at the Centre.

Mass participation in political rallies organized by political parties is nothing new in West Bengal. On the eve of the assembly elections, a new language of political protest has emerged in the State. Some social organizations have launched a campaign called ‘No Vote to BJP’. The campaign has reached various districts, organizing meetings, performing skits, distributing pamphlets, and putting up posters with the clarion call — “Vote any party you want but the BJP”. (See The Telegraph, March 7, 2021)
On March 10, 2021, “around 10,000 people bound by the common objective of not voting for the BJP walked together in a rally in Calcutta...asking everyone to follow their policy to save Bengal”. What is remarkable was that the rally was not organized under the banner of any political party, nor did the participants ask anyone to vote for a particular political party. Some participants in the rally carried flags having images of social thinkers, such as Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, B. R. Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. (The Telegraph, March 11, 2021)

The above political initiatives in West Bengal remind us of the critical politics of non-party political formations, imagined by Rajni Kothari, the eminent political thinker in India.

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