The political realm of West Bengal was taken by storm when the eminent Gandhist social activist Anna Hazare decided to promote a political figure for the first time as the prime ministerial candidate for next year’s election: that figure being none other than the current chief minister of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee. Hazare, after coming to nation-wide prominence with his Delhi based movement for Jan Lokpal bill, a supposedly anti-corruption law, decided to promote Mamata because of her ‘passion for peoples’ struggle’ and ‘down-to-earth’ lifestyle. While some of the political pundits would see this measure on the part of Hazare as a ploy to undermine his once disciple and the most recent Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Kolkata-based media could not care less. After all it is not every day that politics of West Bengal leaps out with the prospect and opportunity to influence and even spearhead the Delhi politics.
In spite of the reservation about the Delhi politics and its open debauchery with corruption, there has always been a certain penchant of the Bengali elites to see a Bengali in the chair of Prime minister. Sure the current President of the country hails from Bengal. But truth be told, that mostly seem like a consolation prize if you consider the futility of the Presidential post in a parliamentary system; besides President Pranab Mukherjee never really held any significance in the political sphere of West Bengal. So needless to say, the Hazare endorsement got people of Bengal all riled up with the expectation that this certain brand of promotion would not only aid Mamata to gain the nationwide prominence she desperately seeks but also to earn more credibility in her home ground itself.
To anyone following the day to day ordeals of Indian politics, this support would seem somewhat abrupt and unwarranted, for, after all, Mr. Hazare wore the garb of politics from time immemorial; and yet it betrays a central idea that could not but be exposed from time to time. That idea is the constant struggle of the democracy of subcontinent with vigilantism.
A couple of years back when Anna Hazare’s movement for Jan Lokpal Bill at capital Delhi took the nation by storm, its massive mass support revealed something more than people’s discontent with the present political system and its corruption. It showed the nation that people are ready to march behind an undemocratic bill as Lokpal which brings in the idea of having an unelected official as virtually a single-handed arbiter of any appeal regarding corruption. The idea of sanitising the system with iron-hand somehow feels rather tantalising to the people, frustrated by the chaos of the democracy. And even though Mamata came to power riding on the popularity and mass-support derived from people’s movement against land-acquisition in Singur and Nandygram, her politics had always been tainted by the same color.
Originating from the Congress brand of politics that has historically been heavily reliant on figureheads, the politics of the current ruling party of West Bengal, Mamata led Trinamul Congress is and has always been a one person show. Adoration or distaste, whatever you may reserve for them, it has to revolve around the supremo and her idiosyncrasies, rather than the policies of the entire political structure. And ever since her ascent to power, this trait of individual cult worshipping has augmented many a folds. Perhaps all Anna Hazare wanted to endorse was not this cult, but this idea of cult-following that he held dear for so long.
Subcontinent will not get over its proclivity to long for individual savior as their political leader overnight. And hence it would be unwise to expect a radically different political discourse introduced in the sphere of mainstream parliamentary politics anytime soon. Yet we need to remain vigilant over these cults and their leads, for the disillusionment with these deliverers are inevitable. All we need to do is to use those very brief moments of sanity, hidden in between the fall of an old messiah and the arrival of the new one, and remind people of the bittersweet truth about of ploy that is our current political system.