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Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 18, April 23, 2011

Cause for Optimism


Monday 25 April 2011, by SC

The multi-phase elections for the West Bengal Assembly have begun with Trinamul Congress chief and Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee holding massive rallies across the State, especially in South Bengal, whereas Congress President Sonia Gandhi, PM Manmohan Singh have joined Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in launching the election campaign in right earnest appealing to the electorate to vote for the TMC-Congress alliance that is all set to wrest power from the CPM-led Left Front. Even the mediapersons sympathetic to CM Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee are not in a position to predict with any degree of confidence that the LF, which has ruled the State with an iron hand for the last 34 years, would return to power this time. Among the citizens of the State there is a veritable tsunami for change in the governance in West Bengal that the national media is not bringing into focus. However, the people of the State have already made up their minds—what remains to be seen is the extent of victory for the Opposition forces represented by the TMC, Congress and large segments of the Left-leaning public including the SUC.

The joint panel of government and civil society representatives set up to draft an effective Lokpal Bill with the purpose of waging a concerted battle against corruption has met and fruitful discussions have ensued. But simultaneously there is a determined attempt to launch a smear campaign to discredit some members of the panel from the civil society, the objective being to derail the panel and thus blunt the struggle against corruption. Obviously vested interests are behind the dirty tricks being played in this regard; this becomes evident from Amar Singh’s involvement in the entire affair. This has provoked Santosh Hegde, the Karnataka Lokayukt in the joint panel from the side of the civil society, to blurt out openly against such mischievous games. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has openly conveyed to Anna Hazare her opposition to such a smear campaign but the nagging question remains: could prominent Congress functionaries engage in such an exercise without the knowledge and approval of the party supremo?

Meanwhile several recent steps and utterances by the Supreme Court have re-ignited faith and hope in the apex body and the judiciary in general. Apart from granting bail to Dr Binayak Sen and making sharp observations against the free use of the instrument of sedition against individuals, the Supreme Court’s unequivocal condemnation of khap panchayats and caste-related injustice alongside holding the administration directly responsible for allowing such activities as vigilante attacks to continue unabated and unpunished has been widely welcomed. The Apex Court’s anguished comments on the existence of two Indias have also been warmly greeted by the people at large.

At the same time the Special CBI judge’s denial of bail to five top corporate honchos allegedly linked to the 2G spectrum scam and their despatch to judicial custody is an event whose significance cannot be overestimated since this is the biggest detention involving India Inc. This again brings out one of the extraordinary features of our democracy wherein the rule of law is an essential ingredient.

The mass agitation in Jaitapur against the proposed nuclear power plant to be installed there with French assistance is a manifestation of the growing public movement against nuclear power plants due to the hazards these entail. This too is a reflection of the democratic spirit which defies suppression. The governments in the State and at the Centre can ignore the public sentiment on this score at their peril.

From Anna Hazare’s emergence in New Delhi to the Mamata Banerjee phenomenon in West Bengal and the anti-nuclear agitation in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur—these are all varied expressions of the people’s democratic assertion. Such an assertion is a cause for optimism amidst all the sordid happenings of recent times.

April 21 S.C.

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