Last two days I was searching for the best possible meaning for the English word 'arrogance.' Almost all dictionaries at home and office, the cyber space, professors of English back in college days..I didn't even spare my father watching election results thousands of kilometres away. But no reply could satisfy me till I heard one of the fellow journalists suggest that Left parties in West Bengal could perhaps best define the word 'arrogance.' Here it was and so handy but I could not find it.. perhaps I was blind for reason.
Even before the campaign for this election could gain momentum, I had written in this space about similarities between West Bengal and Gujarat--post-elections, just few hours before the formation of a new government, I rediscover my own theory and find that the word arrogance also defines, in a very local way in Gujarat, Narendra Damordas Modi.
Washed out by Trinamool Congress and its natural friend, Congress, Left leaders, most of whom used to be my inspiration till 12 years ago, could be heard armed with excuses for losing it to none other than Mamta Banerjee, who, according to them was nothing but a whimsical political entity enjoying the support of minority voters in West Bengal.
Come May 16, 2009 -- Mamta proves otherwise. I keep watching the analysis on election results on national television and try to understand why CPIM loses it all. I keep calling my old friends, colleagues and comrades in West Bengal to understand why such a disaster for a party for which I spent hours and days, months and years. Everyone comes up with different reasons, some of them strongly advocate that voters had lost it and so they voted for Mamta and an almost vanished Congress in the state, some of them confide that it was a mistake of the party and its leaders but with a strong arrogance in their voices. None of them say that a huge distance created between party leaders and common people caused this debacle. I find once again the right definition for the word arrogance.
Monday morning, I find my colleagues coming back to office late morning from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad with what they term as a byte of none other than Narendra Modi. More than 48 hours since Modi's BJP almost lost it to Congress here, suffering with acute syndrome of factional feuds, Modi finally comes forward and talks about why even in his 'Garvi Gujarat,' BJP could not fare well. Like the Left leaders in New Delhi's Golmarket or Kolkata's Alimuddin Street office, Modi sounded unapologetic, adamant and arrogant -- rather he tried to sell a new theory of how BJP did better this time in Gujarat in comparison to 2004 elections. Statistics though prove otherwise. Analysts believe that the Modi wave failed miserably to retain votes, forget about churning. I hear Modi emphasizing, yet another time, that things are well in control in his rule in Gujarat and in his party in the state. Did I hear almost similar words coming from some of the top Left leaders during television interviews in last two days, amid flash bulbs of cameras adding to their glamour--I did.
Back to somewhere during the nineties -- my mother making roti, an unusual item in the kitchen of a typical Bengali family living in Kolkata. I dare to ask her -- she replied those were meant for party comrades who would come from miles away to attend a rally to be addressed by Jyoti Basu in Kolkata's Brigade Parade Ground. I was hungry and my lunch was getting late and there was another reason -- I was late for a cricket match against our arch rival, Pragati Sangha. My mom sounded like an iron lady -- no compromise, food for comrades was on priority and then comes food for comrades living with her at her home including my two sisters and father. Those garam rotis were packed after sometime wrapped in Ganashakti, the mouthpiece of CPIM in Kolkata and only vernacular daily at our home those days.
One of my sisters went out to buy jaggery from the neighbourhood shop and the lunch packets were ready. By the time my lunch got ready, I was busy keeping wickets for my club, overcoming my hunger.
With tears held in my eyes, I called my mom last night to know whom she voted for -- the reply was usual like the last 30 years -- CPIM, who else? I could figure out my father standing next to her tried to snatch the handset to tell me that he did not do it this time. He still could not forget about the bribes he had to pay few months back when he had to collect the documents related to the registration of our home.
A servant of the Indian Navy, my father silently supported the concept of revolution and might have even voted for the red flag bearers. But why not this time? Even though he was mad at Mamta for forcing out the Nano project from Singur and then sending it as a lucrative gift to Modi in Gujarat. Can one of the comrades reach my parents and try to figure out why my father's year-long loyalty and weakness toward the Left has finally got over? I am sure noone will have time to find out. The party workers these days are too busy improving their organisational skills, but most of them believe that like every other election in the last 28 years in West Bengal, in future too people will come out and vote for Left parties. Arrogance.
Party leaders can always say that they will come out with the report of their analysis for such a huge debacle soon and place it before the media. May be a meeting or two -- may be Left leaders who work for the Proletariat (can you remember this word, Comrade?) will drench their throats with Nimbooz and discuss why they lost this time like never before and by evening, yet another press conference.
Did any of them go back to the voters, the common people, the have-nots, the rickshaw-puller at Bowbazaar or the auto-driver in Jadavpur or the angry unemployed youth at Haldia to 'analyse' why this defeat? I am sure, none of them do this exercise these days -- we used to do it as part of DYFI, the youth organisation of CPIM 15 years before. I don't see the faces of local leaders these days whenever I manage to bunk my office and fly to Kolkata to have 'alur chop.' Where are they? The party office wears a new look everytime I pass by -- food packets are ordered over the phone, the LCD television is always put on to watch sports channel or news channels which are just pro-CPIM -- Comrades, are we not avoiding self-criticism? Do you get a chance to carry out this exercise these days like you used to do years before? Or are you too scared to do it?
Will you be going back to people now before you face the voters once again in 2011 during state assembly elections to ensure that you give them a patient hearing and be a part of them like you used to years before when my mom used to make 'rotis' for you and jaggery comprising with luxuries in our five-member family?
I hope you do and like me, many others still believe you can do the magic once again by being a party by the people, of the people and for the people. Else why be in parliamentary democracy, Comrade?
Narendra Modi has hiked distance from the cotton-farmers in Saurashtra region of Gujarat where seeds of the then Jan Sangh were sown and for the first time BJP managed a seat in the parliament from Rajkot which also ironically used to be a constituency of Modi himself when for the first time he contested assembly elections in Gujarat way back in 2001.
Modi and his party has paid the price -- Rajkot now belongs to Congress, very unusually and so are three constituencies in Saurashtra. Modi may not go back to those farmers and day-labourers to win their hearts for the assembly elections due in 2012 -- he has few more cards including the very important one, 'Hindutva.'
Comrades, do you have one such? NO. Then let us go back to the people, among them share their grief and pain, listen to their hearts like we used to do years back. Let me for a change, for one moment believe that you still can do it -- tonight I will go to bed with this dream seeing Comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Comrade Sujan Chakraborty, Comrade Sameek Lahiri, Comrade Md Salim or Comrade Lakshman Seth stepping out from their air-conditioned cars and enjoy the taste of 'muri' and 'alur chop' once again like millions of others there.