“Those who dare to show us their eyes will have them gouged and thrown on the streets. If someone shows us their hands we will cut them off,” said Abhishek Banerjee, member of parliament, in a public meeting. Abhishek isn’t a saffron clad sadhvi of rustic origins. He grew up in Kolkata and completed his MBA in Delhi. A few months back one of his colleagues, Bengali actor Tapas Paul, threatened to let loose rapists among the wives and sisters of political rivals. Tapas and Abhishek’s boss (also Abhishek’s aunt) Mamata Banerjee was once on the receiving end of generous praise by Hillary Clinton. “Despite being a woman she successfully ended 34 years of communist rule,” Clinton had said. (The phrase ‘despite being a woman’ used to be acceptable back then.) Four years have passed since she overthrew the commies. And now one wonders which of the two, the left or the TMC, is the lesser evil.
TMC’s politics is based on three principles: minority appeasement, terror and strategically planned equations with the central government. Minority appeasement is fairly straightforward, from massive reservations in government jobs to monthly allowances for ‘holy’ men. Terror, reigns right from the higher echelons down to the lowest common denominator. Senior politicians like Abhishek and Tapas openly threaten the people they represent. This has a trickle-down effect on the party’s political hierarchy, which then takes these messages to the interior regions of the state. Not unlike during the communist rule, any dissent towards the party is quelled by local thugs. In most cases the police just looks on, too impotent to take on the political establishment. Not a day goes by without news of politically connected clashes and lawlessness coming from Bengal. The equations with the central government, or rather the party ruling the country depend on several factors. During the Congress regime, Mamata had no political competition in the state. Nor was the widespread corruption of her cronies known. She negotiated from a position of power and threw tantrums at the drop of a hat. But now, she needs the BJP more than it needs her. Much against her wishes, the BJP has made strong inroads in the state. They don’t need her support to sustain the central government. The Saradha scam looms large. And so, swallowing her pride, she accompanied the prime minister to Bangladesh. Her party is likely to support the government on some crucial legislations in the upcoming session of parliament as well.
In Uttar Pradesh too, the story of the Samjwadi government is a similar one. The Samajwadis are often perceived as being partial to some caste or creed. They too run the state like a personal fiefdom, oppressing common people and quelling dissent. Recently we saw how an investigative journalist on the verge of taking the lid off a scam was burnt alive, allegedly at the behest of a minister. The atmosphere created by the current regime was perhaps best on display when Mulayam Singh Yadav, speaking about rape, said “Boys will be boys… mistakes happen sometimes.” This casual outlook on problems that seriously affect the state is a key characteristic of how the Akhilesh Yadav government functions.
In fact, how most of the regional political parties function can be brought down to a simple formula, or a business model if you will. Business model seems appropriate since the parties are dominated by one family and seem very much like a family business. The corner stone of this model is vote bank politics. They project themselves as being close to a particular community by offering the community special privileges. This ensures they always have some loyal voters to fall back upon. When in government, they treat their state like a playground and its coffers like an atm. With the state police in their pockets, there is nothing they can’t do and nothing they can’t get away with. During the Lok Sabha elections, they try to send a high number of representatives to Delhi and use them as bargaining chips with the central government. The central government controls the CBI and that is the only factor they are vulnerable to. How both the SP and the BSP were quick to pledge unnecessary outside support to UPA 2 when their leaders were in the dock for corruption is a good example. From Mamata and Mulayam to Lalu, Karunanidhi, Mayawati and the Badals, we see several regional outfits who have followed or are following this model with certain circumstantial modifications.
It is high time these parasitic elements are made accountable for what they do. Wasting valuable time, squandering resources, getting elected using democratic means only to unleash undemocratic credentials afterwards, are phenomena which need to be judged more harshly. Judging purely by electoral results, the three big states in which people seem to be very satisfied with their governments since a very long time are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Perhaps the problem with regional parties is that their outlook isn’t pan-Indian. If they implement their business model effectively when they’re in power, what do they have to lose? Unfortunately, nothing!