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The Pale Fire of Politics

The Pale Fire of Politics EMS NAMBOODIRIPAD, Chief Minister of Kerala, was in Calcutta last week and had intended to visit Gemini's Circus in Howrah across the river. He could not make it His political engagements left him no time for entertainment. It is to be doubted still that he missed much. He had a close look at West Bengal politics today, in which a United Front (UF) Government does the best it can

Sikh, Sikh, Sikh

What happened in Calcutta last week when a part of the city lost its head? Whether or not there is a judicial inquiry, we may never know the whole truth which was either knocked down by a bus, cut through with a kirpan or, shot down by police bullets. The fact is that at least 11 people died and about 300 people were injured as a result of troubles that lasted no more than a warm morning and were restricted to only one area, between Harrison Road and Sealdah Station. Not in living memory had Hindus and Sikhs clashed in Calcutta. After a couple of days of uncertainty, the private buses and Sikh-owned taxis are back on the road. It will be a long time before suspicions fully disappear.

Laying on a Conspiracy of Lay-off

The industrial scene in West Bengal today seems the murkier for affected understatements by both the Government and the industrialists. On his return from Delhi the Chief Minister, Ajoy Mukherjee, has delivered himself of the profundity that retrenchment is an all-India phenomenon. Some spokesmen of the chambers of commerce, after their talks with the labour Minister, Subodh Banerjee, have said that they are all with the Government on the policy of no retrenchment and no lay-off without prior consultations with the Government.

Fellow-Workers and Friends

"Fellow-Workers and Friends!" SOMETHING unprecedented, unique almost, happened in Calcutta on Saturday (March 18) when the new Government (17-day-old, as the newspapers pointed out) addressed a meeting of its employees on the lawn of the Assembly House. The meeting had been convened by the Chief Secretary, I C S and no less. Gazetted officers, it was said, "may also join". Many did, after adequate precautions had been taken. As significant as the Cabinet's readiness to meet Government employees was the evident enthusiasm of the large audience present. There was an unmistakable feeling of oneness with the new Government, for which there has been no tangible basis yet except the decision to reinstate certain employees suspended by the ancient regime. It may also be significant that the local Press is counting the age of the present Government not even in terms of a hundred days, which has been made fashionable in America, ccuntup, as the Americans might

Prafulla Sen Slept Here

Prafulla Sen Slept Here THAT Ajoy Mukherjee, West Bengal's brave new Chief Minister, has so far declined to move into his predecessor's premises inside what used to be Government House and is now Raj Bhavan is no more than a gesture. The reduction of ministerial salaries is as much a gesture, or stunt. To any student of political affairs going about in a small car without obvious security escort must be as unimpressive. Throw your mind back to 1937 and you will remember the twice told tale. But it is a measure of the Nehru regime, which in later years fell for pomp and grandeur, that Ajoy Mukherjee's symbolic gestures are greeted with such enthusiasm. The new Government of West Bengal has. believe it or not, generated an incredible amount of optimism for which the Government itself has Hone little. The Governor'sinaugural address could not have been shorter or more vacuous; Jyoti Basu's interim budget and assessment of the economic situation could not have been less revealing or relief-giving. The enthusiasm was unmistakable.

The Ins and the Outs

to accept responsibility seems out of favour. The Ins and the Outs IN SPITE OF many reverses, the Congress still emerged as the largest single party after the election and could perhaps have demanded its right to try to form a government. Instead, very sensibly, Pra- fulla Sen told the Governor that the Congress had failed to secure an absolute majority and would not, therefore, attempt to form a government in collaboration with others, This good sense, not shown by the Hame party in other States, was in fact imposed upon the Congress, for any effort on its part to work up a government of sorts would have led to serious consequences. A foretaste of what might happen was given about this time last year when, following the bandhs, life was made very difficult, for Congressmen and their families in several districts. The methods employed need not be approved, the fact yet must be reported.

A Revolution in Dhoti

Thus couples desiring less than 4 children would seek to limit births. However, where couples desire more than 4 children, expending funds on contraception would be futile. If 'd' is negative and the couple aim at maximising the number of births, a A CALCUTTA DIARY THE MAIN, and by no means uncharacteristic, point about the general election in West Bengal is that all the political pundits were wrong; this is typical as much of the electorate as of the political astrologers. Rut the emergence of a non-Congress majority remains a fact, which even the Governor cannot quite ignore; and Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress, now elected, unanimously, the leader of the heterogeneous non- Congress parties brought together, is to see the Governor on Monday morning. On the following day (February 28) there is going to be a mass meeting at the foot of Ochterloney Monument, whore a common programme is to be evolved. The habit of the Maidan dies hard, as hard as the habit of Raj Bhavan where the vanquished Prafulla Sen had been living. Sen is believed to be looking for a flat in Park Street, perhaps for acclimatisation before vanaprastha in Arambagh.

The Unrevolution Called Election

The Unrevolution Called Election INDIFFERENCE may be the most fundamental birthright of a citizen in a democracy, a right most jealously to be preserved, and Calcutta displayed this great democratic quality in full measure on Sunday. The polling, as they say, was brisk. If you have to queue up every week for your rations, you might as well exercise your franchise, which costs nothing and may in places be paying. Calcutta's cussedness was evident still in the campaign, through posters and wall paintings; and there was little doubt that the popular meed was agin' the Establishment. The election results will be known before these lines are in print; and the extent to which the aforementioned mood has succeeded in registering itself will have been known to the world. Let it be on the record still that a friend who said he was going to vote Congress was laughed out of court only a few hours before polling time.

Bored to the Teeth and No Bite Left

ABOUT a quarter of a century ago Arthur Koestler held it against political parties that they either ignored or exaggerated the importance of the irrational in politics. We in India, the land of Kautilya, need no instruction from a Hungarian. Left or Right, we recognise the irrational and take the fullest advantage of it- One look at the politics of Bihar or Uttar Pradesh will convince anyone that caste is the decisive factor. Dissident Congressmen, the Bangla Congress, is fully conscious of its regional appeal. There is no reason to doubt that caste and parochialism are equally important factors in the other States. The larger the electorate, the more decisive is the irrational in us all. Discernment and democracy may be almost mutually exclusive quantities.

This Matchless City

This Matchless City THE NEW YEAR opened in Calcutta in very characteristic and symbolic fashion. The whole world knows about the cricket test match that wasn't at Eden Gardens on January 1. (The world apparently wanted to know more, for the local correspondent of a London daily got a first-class rocket for not having filed a story on the riots.) A quasi-judicial inquiry is now in progress; but the public thinks it already knows what was what and who did what. Nor is it believed that the appointment of the one-man commission proceeded only from some indomitable spirit of inquiry in the heart of the Chief Minister, Prafulla Sen. The world of sports, anywhere in the world, is a good deal less sporting than is summed up in the English saying "It isn't cricket". The short answer is, "It never was, madam, it never was". But in Bengal in recent years all sporting activity has been dominated by politics and crookery. Whatever facetious commentators such as this reporter might have written at the time, there was an element of poetic justice in the election of Atulya Ghosh as the president of the Indian Football Association. The fact represented other current trends in Bengal today.

A Strike Struck Down

A Strike Struck Down IN less than forty-eight hours the strike of the workers of the Calcutta State Transport Corporation collapsed, and nobody seems to know why. The unions were indeed assorted. The tendency to' blame the Left CPI for all our troubles persists. What is of much greater interest is whether the failure of the bus workers' strike represents a general trend in which event Prafulla Sen and Atulya Ghosh would be fully justified in their present careless crowing. The teachers got little out of their protracted strike; what they got came some time after the strike had been called off, virtually unconditionally. Last week the Chief Minister announced substantial concessions for State Government employees; but these were in the nature of Christmas gifts from a Santa Claus called Sen, not things extracted from a heartless master under irresistible pressure. This is equally true of an earlier settlement between cinema workers and their employers and the agreement between the workers and the management of a newspaper.

The Militant Alternative

bad effect forecast by some internal Jeremiahs. All my Indian friends who visit me in Tokyo are always struck by one special feature of Japanese society, which is the enormous energy of the people. This last summer I visited Germany, Austria and Switzerland and I felt how empty the streets and houses were in Europe- compared with Japan. In the airline guide given to travellers to Europe by the Japan Air Lines it has the following statement about Hamburg. "It is possible to take the tram from the airport to the station because there are few people that the trams will reach their destination on time." In Tokyo this is im- possible and inside the city one can never be sure of arriving on time as everything is crowded. Between cities only cars are sure of arriving at a certain time. It takes me only 3


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