Monday, 7 January 2013


Adds to my reputation as a procrastinator. It’s already 8th January 2013.

So we have come to the end of yet another year. I am older by one year, that much further away from my birth, that much closer to my inevitable end. But the interesting thing is, I draw great comfort from the fact that I don’t know when and how that end is going to be. This is very different from normal human behaviour – at least middle-class behaviour – we draw comfort from certainties. Not in this case.

But enough of macabre thoughts. Let's see how the year went, what was and wasn't done, what should have been done or undone.

Right now, as most people who know me know, I’m wearing three hats: Politics, the profession of dispute resolution in construction contracts (called Arbitration for short, which is 90%, but not fully correct) and writing. The second is my bread and butter, the last gives me great pleasure, and the first – it provides me with the hill that I must climb, without which to climb I’d be miserable. I can write any time – it is a no-threat thing. I now know, at the risk of presuming upon fate, that I will continue to get cases to arbitrate upon or otherwise resolve. In any case the ones that I have will see me through for quite a few coming years. But politics! And doing BJP in West Bengal! Ah, that's some hill to climb.

Nobody would be interested in my profession, except to know what it is all about, and how did I chance upon it. Construction Contracts (big sums of money, a middling-size contract in India would nowadays be around Rs. 100 crores or a Billion rupees) generate disputes, and disputes require resolution. And resolution requires knowledge of both Engineering and Law, which, begging everybody's pardon and risking a reputation for conceit, doesn't grow on trees. I happened to get involved in one such when I was working for the Metro project and when  seeking a way out of government service. One night, when I was sitting on the balcony of the Metro quarters at 200X, it flashed upon me that this is something I could do. So I'm doing it, and not doing badly at all, touch wood.

But politics? But the point is not that. The point is, after a gap of two decades, things are again beginning to look good for the BJP in West Bengal.

Why do I say so? Several reasons. Consider:

1.     The CPI(M) have been out of power for more than a year and by now almost all the men who worked as their instruments of terror, having no brand loyalty, have faithfully moved to the Trinamool Congress. Otherwise, the situation obtaining at the end of 2011 still holds good. What is that situation?
(a)   First, the bulk of CPI(M) members had joined the party after it came to power in 1977. They know what it is like to ‘do CPI(M)’ while it is in power. Most of them don’t know how to struggle for power, and I suspect most of them don't want to know. because, unlike the Communists of earlier generation they are not ideologically indoctrinated. They were in CPI(M) because it was in power, and if it isn’t they’ll go to whoever is. As simple as that.
(b)  Secondly, leadership: the last two great leaders -- both absolute &%$#@&*$ -- were Jyoti Basu and Anil Biswas. Also, arguably, Subhas Chakraborty. With them dead, the ones that are left, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose, are frankly, not much. They can’t nurse the party back to power. Nor can Shyamal Chakraborty, Suryakanta Misra or Shyamali Gupta, or for that matter Mridul Dey or Abhik Datta or anyone else.
(c)   And thirdly, the CPI(M) had grown so accustomed to winning elections by misuse of the government machinery and spreading terror that today, with both weapons gone, they are completely out of their depths.

2.     What about the party that’s in power? Fortunately for us, and very unfortunately for the people of the state, Trinamool Congress has smeared its own face with egg.
(a)   First of all, the party has no structure, and Mamata runs the party like her own personal fiefdom. There is no organization tree and nobody works under anybody else except Mamata. She is less afraid of losing power in the state than of losing her grip on the party. That’s why she sacrificed Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 2005, because she could not let Subrata Mukherjee, the Mayor, grow too big for his boots.
(b)  She has an incredibly jealous and suspicious nature – she won’t let any minister work independently or even well, for fear that that person may steal the thunder from her and loosen her grip. Good governance, thus, is out of the question. That is why she keeps second-rate or even third-rate people like Mukul Roy, Sobhan Chatterjee or Dola Sen close to her and better people like Subrata Mukherjee, Saugata Roy or Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay at arm’s length. This is why she had driven Subrata out of the party in 2005 because she thought that after his good performance as Mayor of Kolkata he might pose a threat to her. This even applies to bureaucrats – the transfer of Damayanti Sen after she began to crack the Park Street gang-rape is a case in point. I also suspect that since most of the accused were Muslims she must have told Damayanti to go easy on the case and Damayanti did not listen.
(c)   Then, she can’t take any criticism. An extreme example of this is is the arrest of Ambikesh Mahapatra for e-mailing a cartoon. She sincerely believes that since she has been able to dislodge the Left Front, she is now above criticism.
(d)  Her financial indiscretions are at some point of time going to come home to roost. When her Finance Minister says every now and then that he’s worried sick all the time about how to meet the salaries and pension payments at the end of the month, she merrily goes on distributing largesse, like grants to families of hooch-dead, grants to clubs, allowances for Imams and Muezzins, Dearness Allowance for State Government Employees, etc.

3.     So with CPI(M) discredited plus unable, and Trinamool fast on its way to being thoroughly discredited, who remains? The good old Congress? Ah, let’s not talk about them – even their central leadership don’t want them to win, would much rather have CPI(M) win, now that it is easier to make Karat see reason. That’s why the central leadership does not let a single leader emerge in the state, perpetuates the quarrels within the party, and doesn’t criticize the CPI(M). Apart from that their supporters and cadres are demoralized and their support base is decimated, at least in South Bengal. The Congress, no way.
So, as I said, for the state BJP it is now or never. therefore I have to work very hard.

Everything is fine on the family front. Anuradha is fine; so are my daughters Malini (Coco) and Madhura (Momo) both in the US of A; so are Coco's husband Kiran Rao and children, our dearest grandchildren, Surya and Uma and Momo's husband Ajinkya Khedekar. Thank God for everyone being well. However, my mother-in-law, Mrs. Arati Guha, a sprightly 86, living with us, sustained a fracture in her thigh-bone – the second one at the same location. She’s been operated upon, successfully, is back from hospital and is now recovering.

The year went pretty fast, as all years go these days – progressively faster, in fact. We made our annual trip to see our daughters in the US, and I along with a bunch of friends and a couple of relatives took off for a cruise to Alaska. Sailed from Seattle, called at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and took bus trips around. Then got down at Victoria BC, saw the town, took the ferry to Vancouver and took a bus trip to the Canadian Rockies. Jasper, Banff, Lake Sulphur, Lake Louise, and a few more places. Dispersed from Calgary. Incredible. I have always l-o-v-e-d to travel – it appears God ordained that my dreams will come true, though a little late in the day. I wish Anuradha had accompanied me, but she preferred the company of her grandchildren.
My second book, a complete biography of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a man I have always immensely admired, has come out, and was released in Kolkata by Manishankar Mukerji (Shankar) and Justice Chittatosh Mookerjee; two months later it was released, with a Hindi translation, at Delhi by L.K.Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Kumar, Saha-Sarkaryavah.

So far so good. Can't complain. Let it stay this way – but of course it won't. Change is the law of life.

Happy New Year to everyone. May you all have a wonderful 2013.

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