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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 36, New Delhi, August 21, 2021

The Time Has Come, Warns Mamata | TJS George

Friday 20 August 2021, by T J S George



What is Mamata Banerjee up to? That she is unlike any other chief minister is obvious. While others are confined to their respective states, Mamata stands out as a leader with an all-India profile. Every time she visits Delhi, there is speculation about a national coalition taking shape. On one visit she said that regional parties should lead the nation. Next time Narendra Modi fights elections, she said, it will be against a coalition that represents the country. "It will be Modi versus country" in 2014 as she put it.

In Modi versus country, who will lead the "country"? Forget the Yediyurappas and the Pinarayi Vijayans. Don’t even glance at the M. K. Stalins and the Chandrasekhar Raos. They are so "localised" that they won’t even be recognised outside their municipal boundaries. Chandrasekhar Rao, absolutely convinced about his national importance, will not even get a seat in a Bangalore-Mysore bus unless someone makes special arrangements for him. Mamata will easily get a seat because every local passenger will recognise her while most of them will also admit that they like her.

There is a fetching kind of daring when she says "Modi versus country." She took care, during her stay in Delhi, to say: "I don’t want to be the face (of the opposition). I want to continue as a worker and we need to work together." That sounds, in the language of politics, like saying that she is ready to be the worker extraordinaire.

It is of course clear by now that people would welcome a change from the present situation. The power of the Narendra Modi Government has been so pervasive that a desire for some kind of a let-up has developed in recent years though not articulated with any loudness. This desire covers all political formulations and all linguistic territories.

It is not insignificant that Mamata stressed her equations with "major opposition leaders" and specifically mentioned "Jagan (Mohan Reddy), Naveen Babu (Patnaik) Chandrababu (Naidu) Stalin (M K), Uddhav (Thackeray) and Hemant Soren." She did not forgot to add that she also had a chat with Lalu Yadav. "If there is a political storm, you won’t be able to stop it," she said. There was no need to speculate over the implications of her words when she said: "Regional parties will lead the nation. We will not bow down before anyone any more. The time has come."

That famous declaration was ominous even when it was first proclaimed by he Walrus in Alice in Wonderland. "The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things — of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings." A few generations after those immortal lines were penned, pigs did get wings. And we, the citizens, have been suffering the consequences ever since.

Alice’s Wonderland anticipated our fate. "I weep for you," the Walrus said. "I deeply sympathise." As for the Carpenter, he said: "O Oysters, you’ve had a pleasant run. Shall we be trotting home again? But answer came there none. And this was scarcely odd, because they had eaten every oyster."

Consistently the citizen finds his oyster eaten by the power-wielders. But this activity is no longer as innocent as it was in the days of Alice. The days of Modi, of Rahul Gandhi, are different. Under the influence of these modern-day mandarins, people’s oysters are not merely eaten up by unauthorised netas; the very constitution of oysters is transformed by power-wielders. In West Bengal, the education minister tells us, wherever the BJP could exercise its power, chapters on secularism were omitted from school textbooks. In Uttar Pradesh chapters on Tagore were taken out of the curriculum. The UP Board of Education dropped S. Radhakrishnan also from class 10 - 12 syllabus. What kind of Indian history can they teach without principal players such as Tagore and Radhakrishnan?

Actually that is a politically naive question. All through history, there have been attempts by rulers to promote certain influences and delete certain other influences. They succeed during their life time, but the fundamental realities of history have a way of asserting themselves in due course. Even recent cases such as Indira Gandhi prove this.

The Modi juggernaut has been successful in getting its priorities recognised as national priorities. But the inherent reality of that proposition is that it is intended to secure the status of an individual leader as distinct from the status of the nation. Circumstances helped that individual to benefit from that reality. But the reality is fundamentally fraudulent.

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