Swapan Dasgupta , a “Delhi-based political columnist and a member of the ever-growing Bengali diaspora” actually needs no introduction. A familiar face on News Channels, is famous for his rather outlandish views. Not many Neo-Liberals will have the gumption to openly state that in view of the staggering Fiscal Deficit, Food Security Bill should be delayed !!! That’s Swapan for you. A dogmatic believer in Free-Market Capitalism - the poor can starve while the rich enjoy tax breaks .
Swapan was fairly close to the BJP but gradually drifted away. The root cause I guess lies in the fact that the BJP’s economic policy is no longer in sync with his brand of Milton Friedman / Tea Party style Right-Wing Cowboy Economics. After all , unlike him, BJP has to face the hustings once in five years !!!
Swapan of course continues to retain his membership of the Narendra Modi Fan Club in spite of repeated defeats at the hands of Mani Shankar Aiyer .It is thus strange that in spite of Mamata’s known ”populist” stand on economic issues – anathema to the likes of him – he does not hesitate to display unalloyed admiration for her and her policies. We are referring to his article published in the latest edition of “India Today” . It seems that for Swapan and his ilk, any stick to beat the Communists with is good enough so long it's a stick.
The title itself betrays naiveté . Suffering from Bush's Either-Or syndrome (am not comparing the Intelligence Quotients here) , for him it’s either Tagore or Marx. Am reminded of a recent ET article authored by Shiv Viswanathan’s from where I quote just one sentence : “The Indian mind seems full of different ideas which cohabit happily, but do not converse with each other.” Tagore and Marx can of course not just coexist but converse and enrich themselves through mutual interaction.
A few months back, we had the fortune of attending a mellifluous rendering of “Shesher Kobita” by Soumitra and Sharmila Tagore . The recital, organized, by a Charitable Trust, was preceded by a short speech by its President, a middle-aged and dignified lady .She was narrating an incident a few years back on the occasion of a presentation by a Lat Am poet of his Spanish translations of Tagore at Kolkata . The erstwhile CM had requested for a few minutes at the end to recite from his favorite poem “Africa” also recited in Spanish a while back. Swapan of course is the last person expected at such events but then it's common knowledge that a BB speech hardly concludes without a Tagore quotation . So Marx and Tagore can actually coexist !
It is true that Tagore’s songs were not played at traffic intersections those days – most of which have in any case stopped working. There are myriad ways to display one’s love and admiration for Tagore and all he stood for – some sober and others frivolous.
For him, “struggle” is a romance – not a battle of existence for the have-nots, “suffering” is “beautiful” ,the slogan ”Cholbena” not a call for protest against Injustice but an occupation for an “army of professional agitators who see every capitalist venture as a blood-sucking exercise” For the Stephanian of the early seventies known for his Leftist views those days, the recent incidents in Greece, Italy, Spain and even the US have left no visible mark .
A Restaurant opening in Bondel Road is newsworthy as Kolkata seemingly gears up as a “normal” city to forsake contrarianism while striving to become a London ! Unfortunately, apart from the CM and her incorrigible sidekicks , he is the only person who believes that this is possible. In the process he does not mind throwing elementary Economics out of the window.
In one year, “ Kolkata has ceased to be an urban nightmare. Indeed, for the average middle class resident, the city has become a rather attractive place to live. The new Chief Minister's contribution has not been insignificant.”
In what way?
“Thanks to the thousands of cactus or trishul-shaped lamp-posts installed on the main roads and even side streets, and funded from the mplads grants of Trinamool Congress's Rajya Sabha MPs, Kolkata must surely count among the best-lit cities in India.”
He either displays pathetic ignorance or is indulging in falsehood for Kolkata , even in its worst days of power cuts and Infrastructure breakdowns dating back to the Eighties , carried its reputation as a brightly-lit city. When our Company shifted base in 1991, the MD , a resident of Vasant Vihar, an upmarket locality, used to fondly remember Kolkata’s brightly-lit streets. Another senior colleague had an eye problem and refused to drive after sunset which he used to do freely while in Kolkata.
He continues :” Coupled with the improvements in the quality of roads, an elaborate metro network and the mushrooming of modestly-priced flats all over the city, Kolkata is experiencing a new normal, centred on the re-establishment of civic order.” Even the Metro Network and modestly-priced flats all around (which even the best Civil Engineer of the world could not have constructed in less than in a year) are touted as achievements of the present regime!!
The symbols of enjoyment ? Garish Christmas lights in Park Street. Thousands of revelers stalking Park Street for 34 years during the Christmas – New Year week never really enjoyed themselves because the lights were not as garish.
And there was no creative juice flowing for 34 years – no Satyajit Ray, no Mrinal, no Buddhadev Dasgupta, no Rituparno, Rudraprasad, “Galileo” , Shombhu Mitra , no Film Festivals, no “Nathabati Anathabath” , no “36, Chowringhee”no Kabir Suman, Bhoomi or Chandrabindu.
Creativity of course had to wait for 35 years till D-day - Eden Gardens on 28th May, 2012 .
No – he has not finished as yet .The last punch will surely hit you under the belt . “Even the College Street Coffee House has changed. "I went there after a long time," said a long-time Kolkata resident, "and I saw students gorging on plates of chowmein. Revolution R.I.P.” Chowmein-gorging students symbolize for him the end of Revolution !!!!!!!
It is only towards the end that he injects a modicum of sense into an otherwise banal essay “Ironically, it is this liberation from ideological profundity that may better equip her to guide a state that is most content seeing itself in the light of Bhutan's innovative Index of National Happiness.”
He does accept – albeit unwittingly - that there are ways other than crass consumerism to attain happiness . And it is this inherent feeling of happiness that will see Bengal through. I guess it does not need sagely advices from the Swapan Dasguptas of the world.