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

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Calcutta Diary

Some years ago, in order to prevent the CPI(M) and its associates from continuously winning elections in West Bengal, the suggestion was mooted to import not only poll personnel and supervisory police, but voters too from other states on the eve of the poll. That proposal is no longer considered feasible. Hence an alternative proposal has been adumbrated: the mandate of the West Bengal electorate must not be honoured; it is time for arranging a constitutional amendment to that effect.

Much more than the fact of Jyoti Basu’s retirement, it is the fall-out of the retirement which grips attention. The following passage is, in translation, from the editorial note of the leading Bengali newspaper which, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, has the largest sales in the country:

The Leftists have been in command of the administration in the state under Jyoti Basu’s stewardship for nearly two and a half decades. Has that done much good to the state? Should a single party or a combination of like-minded parties be in power uninterruptedly for such a long stretch of time, any change in administration or policy is virtually impossible. Since the views of those in charge of government remain unchanged, it becomes impossible to initiate innovations and there is no scope for administrative experiments. Everything chimes in the same monotonous strain. Barrenness affects society as well as its culture too, reflecting the barrenness of politics. True, apart from West Bengal, no other state in this country has been the victim of such a misfortune in the past decades. Ruling figures in these other states have changed frequently as per the verdict of the people. Even so, the danger is inherent, in India’s system of parliamentary democracy, of the prospect of continuous, uninterrupted reign in a state by a single party. The other states were saved merely because no party has been able to receive in successive elections the imprimatur of approval of the voters. In the circumstances, it is a moot question whether the Constitution should permit a party to rule a state almost eternally because it has continued to be blessed by the mandate of the people. To avoid the entrenchment of vested interests and also to ensure change from time to time in administrative policy and practice, it seems reasonable to introduce a specific constitutional provision. Should such an amendment be part of the Constitution, it would, in great measure, reduce the scope of political authoritarianism under the guise of democracy. And in that event it would no longer be possible for a man like Jyoti Basu to exercise unbridled control over the administration nor will there be any need for such a leader.

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