Radiating a powerful message
Amit Shah's Call of 'Ebar Bangla' is for Reclaiming Bengal
On April 25, BJP national president Amit Shah started his fifteen days 'vistarak' sojourn from the non-descript but historic Naxalbari village in north Bengal. Shah declared that he was one among 3 lakh 68 thousand workers who have pledged to dedicate 15 full days for the party. There were two powerful symbolisms in Shah's action and in his choice of place.
The importance of his action as a vistarak – one endowed with the responsibility of spreading the ideals, ideology, and the reach of the party – in selecting West Bengal and that too Naxalbari, struck a chord with the perceptive ones among the observers and especially the Bengali psyche, which has for decades, been scarred by the memories of Naxalbari and its violent, bloody, and destructive aftermath.
That the national president of the largest political party and the ruling party of the country chose Naxalbari, and decided to go there as a foot-soldier with the party's message of hope, of succour, and of positive development is a deeply symbolic act that is bound to soon activate and propel the Bengali mind – or at least an avant-garde section in it.
It was also interesting to see the booth, the district, the state and the national president of the party all gathered on one stage at Naxalbari and then at Bhowanipore in south Kolkata, it radiated a powerful political message that BJP under Shah is indeed a party which is constantly renewing itself, is reaching out, shunned mindless hierarchies and is bound by the chord of a deep ideological commitment. This clearly indicates that the party was already restructuring itself, reworking its power bases, widening its foundation and re-organising itself from the grassroots, from the very roots that have sustained it and lent it momentum and dynamism.
Sceptics who keep referring to BJP's challenge as being that of re-organising itself, of accommodating various regions and voices are basically missing out on or have not understood the process and movement of change in the BJP that Shah has already initiated in this respect. The only difference this time round is that the change is being structured and engineered from the roots upward, it is not cosmetic, it is not superficial, it is not perfunctory but is in line with Shah's style of functioning – thorough, all-encompassing, transformative and with a focus on the minutiae, on the details and on the basic blocks. This requires stamina and Shah's politics is all about stamina, determination, and perseverance.
The symbolism of Naxalbari is a profound one. Shah's message from this, once ground zero of a terror ideology that still haunts and oppresses people across India, was that of development, "I have come here in Naxalbari", he said, "with the message and with the determination of countering the politics of violence with that of development, of positivity and of hope, the ideology of violence can only be countered with the politics of development and of inclusiveness."
Except for some iron-headed political commentators who missed it or failed to comprehend it, the symbolism swirled, after five decades of the origination of the one of the most violent political ideologies in Independent India, one saw the national president of the leading party, trudge to the spot that gave birth to that ideology and declare a refreshingly new ideal and goal for a "New India." The message was a clear one and was meant for all those who believed and practised the politics of violence, of retribution, of exploitation and of degeneration.
Shah's articulation during the trip was a clear and unequivocal one, it was that the movement to reclaim Bengal can only come from the grassroots, it has to begin and build up from the booth, from the workers, from the marginalised and the exploited, it is they who must pine and yearn for change, it is they who, having suffered neglect and political exploitation have to feel the unsettling desire for change. Shah's tour of Bengal has ignited that unsettling desire for change in many.
Shah's riveting call of 'Ebar Bangla' – now Bengal – is a galvanising one, much more powerful, earthy, and captivating than the cry of 'poriborton'. It is a battle cry as well as a cry of hope – hope because, as he argues, it is now Bengal's turn to join the national mainstream in the march for development and not be left behind anymore. "The chariot of 'New India' is on the march, why should Bengal be left behind", he asks. He attacked the politics of "self-alienation" that has been Bengal's political bane for the last four decades.
When did a national president of a national party walked the small gullies and bylanes of Kolkata last? Seeing Shah plod through the winding lane of Bhowanipore's slums and establish contact with his booth workers – having started as a booth-worker himself, Shah has never forgotten those starting blocks – one realised how the political approach in the party was being decisively altered.
Addressing a gathering of eminent citizens at the historic Mahajati Sadan in the evening of April 26, Shah spoke of how parties that have no internal democracy, are dynasty- and individual-centric and bereft of ideological direction, can never work for development in a democratic setup.Shah's call of 'Ebar Bangla' has sounded the bugle for reclaiming Bengal.
(The author is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. Views are personal.)