One may disagree, depending on ideology, with the points that Mahua Moitra, a first time MP from the Trinamool Congress, made in her speech participating in the motion thanking the president in the Lok Sabha. The points made and the template – a poster on the early warning signs of fascism – would not have drawn such attention if the speaker happened to be from one of the Left parties.
Well. There aren’t any from the handful of the Left party MPs (literally a handful because they are five and can be counted with just one hand) who could have said what Moitra said with such clarity and articulated the way in English language as this US-educated investment banker did on Tuesday. The CPI (M), strangely, holds on with its view that the TMC, to which Moitra belongs, has an understanding with the BJP, whom Moitra attacked as representing whatever she held out from the poster on the early warning signs of fascism.
After listening to her speech I did search the web for information on her. My quest was to find out how such a person, articulating a lot of ideas that usually belong to the Left of Centre fold in our political space, is a representative of the Trinamool Congress, a party that cannot be held within the confines of an ideological square. I was clear, even at the beginning of the quest, that she held a job as investment banker and was an important person in one such corporate in the US and that at a time when the sub-prime crisis had begun to hit the economy hard.
The time she quit her job and returned to India with definite plans to enter party politics happened to be when the Left was ruling West Bengal and was already committed to corporate-driven policies in the economic domain as it showed in Nandigram and Singur. That was when Chief Minister Budhadeb Bhattacharya wondered aloud on why did people oppose the idea of a corporate-sponsored hanging garden project in the Sundarbans. It was the same Bhattacharya, who was minister for information and publicity in 1979 when the Left Front government ordered killings at Marichapi, islands in the Sundarbans, holding that such settlements were a threat to the environment there!
A corporate honcho who held a pretty high position in JP Morgan, Mahua Moitra could have landed with ease with the CPI (M) in West Bengal. She did not. Mahua Mitra was a toddler when the Left Front had won elections and came to power in 1977 and a little older when the Marichapi massacre was carried out in 1979. She, along with her parents, left for the US in 1989 when politics in India was beginning to witness the churning when the backward castes assertion had come to the fore and was exposed to a political culture in the US through the 1990s.
She grew up when the world had turned uni-polar and the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc had collapsed in the 1990s and when Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and Francis Fukayama’s End of History had arrived as texts that were most fancy to read and be put prominently on anyone’s bookshelf. It is true that the fancy had begun to end after the sub-prime crisis hit the US economy and Latin America was beginning to suggest the possibility of another world. The World Social Forum sessions had turned into the destination for many of those who would have, otherwise, landed on the Left across the world.
That Mahua Moitra did not choose the Left as her destination when she returned home in 2008 and instead landed in the Congress party is then a metaphor rather than just a personal decision. The Congress party, at that time, was forging a track where the NREGA and the RTI were important markers. The former investment banker, then, could not have seen the unbridled penchant for corporate guided growth that marked the CPI(M)’s preference convincing. Her arrival then had preceded that of the AAP, where many others like her had landed five years later.
The Congress, however, had turned moribund soon and this was pronounced after the party’s return to power in May 2009. Its West Bengal unit did not have space for someone like Mahua Moitra as much as the CPI(M) having landed in a trap of its own making; the trap was set when the party’s government in West Bengal preferred to distribute and perpetuate poverty in the villages across the state and letting the party organisation taken over by mafia syndicates assured of protection by the state.
The trap set by them entrapped them too; Singur and Nandigram were not merely names of places but a syndrome. Mohua Moitra, indeed, found the Trinamool Congress assuring the space for someone who was convinced that the future of politics in India ought to imagine economic growth with as little collateral damage to the lives of the poor. Something that she must have learnt, studying Economics and Mathematics at the Mount Holyoke College. It must be said that there is something that the higher education system, with a dose of liberal arts, does to one who is privileged to study there and Mahua Moitra hence represents a generation to whom doctrines do not appeal.
Those like her who went to college in the US in the 1960s ended up in the CPI(M) on return with a dream to change the world; she is as much like those of her kind who went to college in the 1980s to return and be part of the new social movements, taking up such causes as development induced displacement or the cause of victims of industrial disaster; they were unhappy with the CPI(M) too because the party had turned sectarian and regimented that there was no space for creativity and critical thinking and treated spontaneity a crime.
She represents another generation who marched the streets in Quebec and Doha and found the Trinamool Congress seeking out such people to join its fold. It is another matter if such persons as Mahua Moitra will find the party that had inherited a chunk of the mafia syndicates into its fold from the CPI(M) the appropriate place for her to pursue her own ideals of another world. This fact of ending up out-of-place had happened with people like her who landed in the AAP.
For now, I will say Mahua Moitra had made a mark in the Lok Sabha and her maiden speech will remain among those that will be held as memorable. And the CPI(M) will have to desist from saying that the TMC is in league with the BJP.
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V Krishna Ananth teaches History at Sikkim University, Gangtok. .