A sense of deja vu… by Pritish Nandy


One of the problems of being around on this planet for a while is that one begins to see most things in a slightly skewed perspective. You look back in time to context current events. The successes others around you are constantly exulting in do not impress you that much simply because you know tomorrow always comes, whether Garth Brooks wants it or not. No, it doesn’t mean one is a cynic or a disparager. It only means one learns from history. If we don’t, as the wit said, we are condemned to repeat our mistakes.

Like most Bengalis I am elated Mamata Banerjee has won. She is a gutsy person and has built her organisation from scratch to take on the mighty Left citadel which she brought crashing down last friday. The media which abandoned its neutrality in politics a long time back celebrated her victory with as much delight as her Trinamool workers playing Holi on the streets. I may be however forgiven for feeling a bit disappointed that journalists, unlike in my time, have abjured their impartial roles and become as much a part of politics as party workers. Newspapers, magazines, news channels today side with political parties at election time making it difficult for common people to separate facts from propaganda, truth from disinformation. I hated the media’s original rejection of Mamata and bootlicking of the Left as much as I dislike their new found love for her and hatred of the Left.

The media’s job is to inform. It is up to you and me to assess that information and decide who we want to support. Mamata with her easy, street smart charm could have easily won this battle on her own. Just as Gautam Deb would have easily lost the battle for the Left by his aggressive, uncouth posturing. The media needed to referee the confrontation instead of conjoining it. But that’s another matter. I am happy Mamata won and gave the Left a rest after 34 years of running West Bengal, largely into the ground. But the funny thing is: I recall when the Left Government came to power and Jyoti Basu became chief minister, he said exactly the same things Mamata is saying today and we applauded him exactly as we are applauding Mamata now. People flowed out onto the streets to celebrate the victory of the red revolution. Just as they are doing today, to celebrate Trinamool’s green revolution.

Tamil Nadu is the same. I hear Jayalalitha saying the same things today, to thunderous applause, that I heard Karunanidhi say when she was chucked out by the electorate and the DMK came in with so much hope and fanfare. The first thing Jayalalitha said on Friday after her landslide victory was: The people of Tamil Nadu have voted out corruption. Those were the exact first words of Karunanidhi when he defeated her last time. She was then seen as the symbol of corruption. Many bribery cases were filed against her. Today, she admonishes the DMK with precisely the same words and the electorate loves it. It’s not only because of our collective amnesia. It’s also because a new generation of voters comes out in every election with no memory of the past. It’s charming to see their gullibility and hope, their dreams of change.

Actually our choices are very limited in most polls. We are forced to decide between really awful people. The “none of the above” button which voters have been demanding for ages has still not been given presumably because there’s a fear that most voters will actually press it. As a result, a consortium of crooks, rascals and fixers run our polity with shameless disregard for issues of morality and public trust. Luckily, the nation has finally woken up to the fact that it’s possible to resist them, punish them, put them behind bars with a little bit of help from institutions like the Supreme Court which still function with their head held high in an environment where most crawl on all fours and seek favours from the corrupt. No wonder there’s so much of anger and angst all around.

Elections give people a chance to vent their ire, to show their power. To prove that our democracy still flourishes despite so many disappointments and disconnects. Mamata’s victory, the DMK’s abject defeat, the Left losing both Kerala and West Bengal, Gogoi’s third term, the Karnataka by-elections: all these are signs that India is doing well. We know how to use the ballot to win back the freedoms we occasionally misplace. But, yes, we also need to remember our past so that we make the right choices. We need to learn the lessons history teaches us. That’s the only way we can look ahead with courage and faith instead of wallowing in self pity, flagellating ourselves for our many failures. If we make mistakes, as indeed we often do, we know that we can always right them at the next polls.

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9 Responses to “A sense of deja vu… by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Sharmila,

    Pritish Nandy is one among those from the old school of journalists who have adopted to the new generation by abandoning the values that are part of his grounding.

    This post is glowing example of that phenomenon.

    Gone are the days when candidates offered their services to the public and the public chose their representative from among equals. There were no winners and losers.

    These days they ‘contest’ elections. There are knights in armors fighting for glory and wealth. In Pritish Nandy’s words, “Elections give people a chance to vent their ire…”

    Age is an opportunity to nurse values that can serve the next generation.

    Let us not bury the founding principles of Indian democracy by giving attention and credence to inappropriate changes.

    Older is considered wiser because they have survived history.

  2. There have been attempts by some people to apply their analytical skills of discrimination to trivialize Mamata’s success.

    For example:

    1. Burkha Butt kept pegging at the ‘woman’ factor as if Mamata had made it because she was a woman.

    2. Pritish Nandy calls himself a proud ‘Bengali’

    3. CPI and Wikileaks are jointly calling it an american success.

    The fact is: Mamata convinced her voters to vote in her favor. The voters know what is good for them.

    Any attempts to sow filmy falsehoods in recording this historical event will not change the facts. I am sure there will be many books written by many contemporary authors to mark this change. Hopefully, they will limit themselves to ground realities and not avoid justifying flimsy fetishes of narrow minded intellectuals.

    Mamata has probably broken the cult of communism, surely not socialism.

  3. Aishwarya Says:

    I agree with Mr. Nandy’s take on media and journalism.

    In an age where we can receive news from the world over with just a click of a button, the media resorts to cheap gossip and distorted reality to grab eyeballs, clouding our thinking.

    Just one News channel would do. That should put a halt to the rubbish.

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