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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 44

Black and White


Monday 22 October 2007, by SC


The eventual decision by the Congress leadership to bow to the pressure of the Left parties as well as its own allies in the UPA coalition, notably the RJD and NCP, has had a salutary effect. The Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement has, for all practical purposes, been placed in cold storage. Of course, the Congress leadership has not said so in clear terms. That is also the reason why a few contradictory statements have come from the PM himself. While in India he told a major public gathering that the UPA was not a “one-issue government” and after all there was life beyond the deal, even as he expressed his sense of disappoin-tment at the turn of events. Yet in Pretoria, where he went for the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) summit, he sought to convey a different message: the government had not given up persuading the Left parties on the importance of the India-US agreement on cooperation to harness nuclear energy for peaceful perposes and the “process of evolving a meaningful consensus (on the issue) is still on”.

Whatever the PM may say, the fact is that the nuclear deal in its present form is unacceptable to the bulk of the our lawmakers—it has also divided the polity (for the first time on a foreign policy issue) and that is not a healthy sign in the least. It is in this context that the Congress leadership’s final position, that is, not to rush through the deal and have a threadbare debate on the subject in Parliament was most welcome. That is exactly what democracy is all about.

While this is a positive development, there are disturbing signals from West Bengal of late. The death of a young and promising graphic designer Rizwanur Rahman in mysterious circumstances in the backdrop of his marriage to Priyanka Todi, a Kolkata business-man’s daughter, and the way the State administration handled the whole issue once again exposed not only its shortsightedness but also a frightening nexus (of the police-business-politician) in Left ruled West Bengal. Ultimately the CM was compelled to transfer the top police officers but only after the judiciary unequivocally called for a CBI probe into the episode, something Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was doggedly resisting till the last. At the same time one cannot be oblivious of the civil society movement that helped project the ’justice for Rizwanur’ demand which none could possible oppose. While this too is most welcome, the aforementioned nexus is highly dangerous and needs to be combated with all the strength at one’s command.

Something else is also happening in the State—there is a growing mass movement against the massive fraud with the public distribution system (PDS) in rural Bengal. This has brought into focus another kind of nexus, the nexus of the ’party’-panchayat-corrupt ’ration’ (PDS) dealers, and the popular anger is directed against this nexus. No amount of obfuscation by blaming the Centre on this score will work.

In the light of these developments in the State, one cannot but agree with what has lately appeared in ML Update, a weekly news magazine of the CPI-ML (Liberation)).

All sections of the progressive opinion must be worried about the tell-tale signs of the rot in West Bengal. Now is the time to unite and act against this rot before it is too late.

However, while doing so the public anger and indignation should be channelised such as not to give any quarter to nihilism; instead West Bengal’s legacy of transforming agrarian relations must be upheld and carried forward in this struggle while unmasking the manifold compromises the ruling administration is making with vested interests of different hues.

October 18 S.C.

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