Friday, November 16, 2007

Editorial: Arrogantly outrageous

The Statesman

Mr Bhattacharjee’s triumphalism

There has not been another Chief Minister who has made so arrogantly outrageous and astonishing a statement as did Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday. West Bengal is quite totally stunned. He and his party may arguably be entitled to savour the triumph, however spurious it may be. But to declare that those who “ruled” Nandigram for the past eleven months have been “paid back in their own coin” and that “it serves them right” is a recklessly explosive, even inhumane, statement to be made by a Chief Minister who is bound by oath to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
He has drawn a calculated distinction between “our men” and “their men”, confirming that in his reckoning the party has become more important than the state of which he happens to be the head of government. He has not merely admitted to the “recapture” by the cadres, but has the gall to make a public defence of the operation. The vital difference between the outrage in March and November must be that while earlier the barefoot cadres had masqueraded as police, this time there was no call to don the uniform. The party headband carried its own message. The eloquent admission of faith in the cadres is matched with the lament that the state police didn’t have the training to carry out the task, the “level of training that the CRPF has”. He could have been a little more upfront had he claimed that over the past 30 years the party’s footsoldiers have become as adequately equipped and trained as a paramilitary force. That he has more faith in the cadres than in the cops ~ that comes under his ministerial belt ~ is reaffirmed with the assertion that the cadres have accomplished what the state police would not have been able to. He has regretted the delayed deployment of the CRPF, thanking Pranabda for expediting the process. It isn’t exactly clear what the external affairs minister has to do with Nandigram’s security. As CM, he has obliquely endorsed a lumpenised administration that mobilises cadres to do the work of the paramilitary, should the need arise in the party’s reckoning. It was a deftly crafted strategy that kept the police in the sidelines and let the CRPF move in when the deed was done.
Mr Bhattacharjee has couched his triumphal address to the media with a somewhat newly-acquired sense of sarcasm. “Has the general outcry of shashaner shanti (peace of the grave) replaced the 11-month shorgiyo shanti (heavenly peace)? It’s good that Advani used a car and not a rath”. This is smart-alecry that doesn’t behove a Chief Minister. West Bengal expects him to be less and less arrogant and more and more responsible in his utterances, specifically to speak on behalf of the state and not the party.