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By Rizwan Ullah

Having made the highest score as a state chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu may be naturally inclined towards playing a wider role at the national level and not to miss the second opportunity to get a front seat on the bandwagon on its way to Delhi. He is fortunate in that opportunities come his way on their own, otherwise Congress would not have committed blunders in Bengal that resulted in unrolling of the Red carpet in the state, neither would have the Naxalbari movement emerged from the wilderness of North Bengal to carry the war against its avowed ‘class enemies’ to their doorsteps in cities and in the process losing their heads.

In recent history of Bengal there was a man of political sagacity called Bidhan Chander Roy. Even otherwise Bengal has been blessed with men of vision in all ages. Dr BC Roy was a strong Congress chief minister of West Bengal who would never budge from his stronghold. Neither could the luster of Delhi nor could the pleadings and persuasion of Pandit Nehru make him leave his place, his post, his residence, his profession as physician, his patients, his state and estates. When he finally departed he did not leave behind a legacy of corruption, accumulated wealth or a political residence in Washington Square. Till his last days in July 1957 he received a number of patients every morning at his residence and administered the affairs of the state from the same place. In fact, he left behind a handbook of political realism in post- independence India.

Pandit Nehru being a studious observer of history had learnt a lesson by heart, that the emergence of powerful local and regional leaders had been the bane of political stability in India throughout history. These ambitious people always joined hands with others who challenged the central authority which was located in and around Delhi. This weakening influence enticed outsiders to march on the citadel in the hope of sharing the booty which they invariably did. Nehru did not want this to happen. He kept his cards close to his bosom. But Indira Gandhi being still closer, rather an extension of Nehru’s own self, learnt the game instinctively.

There were great men among Nehru’s contemporaries who wielded influence over masses and aspired primacy in power. Pandit Nehru did not look upon them with equanimity. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Pandit Govind Vallabh Pant, Morarji Bhai Desai, Kamraj Nadar for instance. Nehru pulled them from their strongholds, and included them in his cabinet. The argument that their vision and aspirations were urgently needed for the reconstruction of the newly independent country was very sound. It softened the ego almost everywhere. Dr BC Roy refused to leave Calcutta. No persuasion or pressure worked. He too had a sound argument. He could not leave the patients he had to attend. He did not even move to an official residence — a wasteful luxury at the cost of poor peoples money.

However, these who were sucked into the union course lost their moorings. Mr. Siddharta Shankar Ray from West Bengal for instance. Once again there was a sound argument: who else could be looked upon to share the burden of nation-building, an uphill task left behind by Nehru and his colleagues. The invitees of this and following batches too learnt their lessons as did their predecessors. But in the wake of this process other developments also took place for which credit or discredit should go to the Nehru dynasty which virtually ruled the country for almost four decades out of five after independence. State administrations were destabilized and party followers in the states got loose ends. 

It is for the political historians to dig into the facts and infer what intent could have led Nehrus to pull regional leaders and suck them into the national mainstream. Was it the real intention to let the nation benefit from their practical wisdom, political sagacity and experience? Was it a part of the strategy to pull influential leaders from their strongholds to reduce their propensity to challenge the central authority on issues that affected their areas or interests? Obviously, such as sharing of river water, demarcation of state boundaries, establishment of heavy industries, construction of dams and other similar projects and priorities in the matter of financial allotments. Apart from the nature of intent the fact remains that the strategy worked and hardly any regional leader could scornfully challenge the ruling dynasty. But this success was achieved at a very high cost for the organization , that is the ruling Congress. 

In the absence of powerful leaders second rankers in the states indulged in mutual bickerings and infight. The party interests were put on the back burner, central leadership too was more involved in the affairs of the state which distracted and diverted attention from more pressing national issues with the consequent loss to the nation and the party. The country run with unimaginative policies, pursued by short-sighted persons in a world of fast developments, was deprived of its leading role in the world affairs and the Congress Party faltered and fell in state after state.

The politbureau of the CPI-M must have that example in view when it had advised against Mr. Basu’s departure for Delhi when the opportunity had beckoned him last time, for like other political parties the ruling CPI-M in West Bengal too suffers from infighting and Mr. Basu plays the role of the hub that holds the wheel forks in place and keeps the car moving. Let us see how the party reacts as another opportunity offers itself to Mr. Basu who himself seems to regret missing of the last opportunity and also seems to be itching to see his name as a prime minister included in the annals of Indian history , as was the sole ambition of Mr Charan Singh which was fulfilled as a result of his short stint at top.

TAILPIECE: Once UNESCO requested President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt to lend the services of Dr Taha Husain. President Nasser replied: The people of Egypt need the services of the blind scholar than the UNESCO does.

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