ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A City of Sleepwalkers

Coming back to Calcutta after four years abroad is an experience.I don't mean the obvious physical discomforts of daytoday Calcutta life that hits you in the face like gusts of summer heat as you come out of the airconditioned Park Street restaurant.

Coming back to Calcutta after four years abroad is an experience.I don't mean the obvious physical discomforts of daytoday Calcutta life that hits you in the face like gusts of summer heat as you come out of the airconditioned Park Street restaurant. Of course, they are important: the mounting garbage heaps here, there and everywhere, the appalling conditions of health and sanitation services, a transportation system that surprises every one by not grinding to a complete collapse, the everincreasing crowds of pavementdwellers, the misery and squalor all around and the sheer helplessness of it all stir even the most apathetic of souls returning home.Nevertheless, Calcutta has, you are always told, a peculiar vitality of its own; it is supposed to be 'alive' in a way Delhi or Bombay is not.But it is a peculiar quality of this alleged 'liveliness' that strikes the discerning observer in contrast to what he has generally seen elsewhere.In most of the things through which Calcutta expresses its life, there is a strange air of unreality.In politics, in art and literature, in films and dramas, in discussion and debates you find a city full of visionaries, incurably romantic and charmingly out of touch with reality.

Secret of Congress Strength 
Calcutta is notorious as very much a politically active City. But its active leftism is very often of a particularly romantic type, full of right sentiments but very little of tough organisation. Despite a colourful spectrum of popular leftist parties, organisationally the effectiveness of the Left does not seem to have improved substantially over the years in West Bengal. So after all the noise and fury, the Congress party ceremonially wins the elections and, in all probability, is going to win the next election also, possibly with a smaller majority, (unless the Government foolishly accelerates its policy of repression against the intensive agitations, demonstrations and 'gherao' movements which the Left parties have promised in a few weeks' time). Of course, you will hear of the malpractices and manipulations added to the purposive preelection distribution of patronage that contribute to Congress triumphs, but undeniably the major reason is that the organisational effectiveness of the left parties (particularly in rural West Bengal and overwhelmingly in 'surplus' districts where the big jotdars are so powerful) come nowhere near that of the ruling party, however, unwieldy and amorphous the latter may be. The Rightist opposition in some North Indian States is perhaps more solidly organised than the Left in West Bengal.

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