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Very rarely one has the privilege and opportunity to see and observe a golden age. Mostly one reads about past golden ages in the history books…. The era of Ashoka, Akbar, etc … All in the past… in modern times, the era of Nehru…. There I have displayed by ideological biases, but I was around in the last years of Nehru, I was too young to remember anything of his declining years. And so, I remember 1977 as the beginning of an era when with all its faults and fault lines, a
titan ruled my state of West Bengal. I suppose it requires a dwarf for one to recognize a giant and looking back to 1977, I see gold in the Jyoti Basu years which ended in 2000 at the dawn of the millennium.

Jyoti Basu didn’t do everything right. I suppose there is no leader of whom we can say that they did everything right. He and his party practiced a kind of cronyism that others have now mastered, and he looked the other way as lumpens slowly crept into the lower rungs of the party, sans any understanding or commitment to the working classes which his party claimed to represent. But there was one thing – there was good governance. At least compared to the anarchy we see now. He
gave the state decades of unparalleled political stability in an age of defections. He also promoted the secular credo and maintained communal peace in a region with a history of communal strife that had led to its dismemberment and partition. His government in the eighties carried out through Operation Barga systematic land reforms to recognize the rights of sharecroppers, laying the foundations for a remarkable performance in agriculture. Where did all this take West Bengal? The short answer is: In relation to other states, it began and ended the two decades under Basu at the same place. According to the National Human Development Report 2001, West Bengal ranked eighth among India’s 15 important states in 1981, 1991 and 2001!

Basu was obviously more than party leader and chief minister. He conducted himself with grace and commanded respect. His personal probity and dignity made him stand out among the general run of senior politicians of his time in the country. for someone married to an ideology that has had few takers in India, he was one of the most successful politicians in the world’s largest democracy.

Today it is sad to see the eras once presided by Dr. B.C.Roy – another of the architects of a golden age in Bengal in post-independence Bengal and then by Jyoti Basu completely over. Both B. C. Roy’s Congress and Jyoti Basu’s Left Front and decrepit and decaying. It used to be said, “ What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Today I wonder if it thinks at all.

Shantanu Dutta, an Ex-Air Force Doctor is now working in the non-profit sector


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One Comment

  1. Judging by the 2019 poll results (e.g. BJP capturing 18 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal), we may change the old saying into: “What (Modi’s) India thinks today, Bengal thinks tomorrow.” !