posting in full from the Deccan Chronicle Aug 20 2007...
Left has a problem for every solution
By Suhel Seth
There has been excessive criticism about the Left parties with relevance to the Indo-US nuclear deal: the Prime Minister has been courageous, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been pragmatic and Prakash Karat has been stern. I have often heard industrialists crib about the Left, on how the Left is coming in the way of real progress. Ram Jethmalani, at a dinner in Mumbai last week, told me how he had written a letter to the Prime Minister expressing support on the nuclear deal and he too felt that the Left was barking up the wrong tree.
Much has been written on the nuclear deal. Frankly, I just don’t give a damn. While everyone is concerned about relations with the United States and the nuclear issue, my anger stems from the fact that even today, the Delhi-Gurgaon connector is a mess. T.R. Baalu, the minister, must be thrown out. This shameful act of delays and more delays cannot be tolerated, but more of that later, since, as I said, everyone is targeting the Left.
I believe India has a great need for the Left and their way of thinking.
We need the lunatic fringe amongst us, or else, what will the news channels cover? We need to see footage of some real old men determining the future of a really young country from their own impoverished ivory (or perhaps paper, in their case) castles, and telling us what we need to do.
The Left is the rightful naysayer that every country needs. I was born and raised in Bengal, and thus I know the DNA of the Left very well. They are classic bullies when they need to be. Essentially, they are cowards, and finally, Dr Manmohan Singh has understood that.
They always bark, but can never bite, because the leash is elsewhere — in some godforsaken province in China. And like most things that emerge from Bengal, the Left has a problem for every solution, which is why we need them.
We are a country which specialises in tabling why things cannot be done. Ask an Indian to do something and he will tell you why it cannot be done. This is the mantra of our bureaucracy as well. A bureaucrat is essentially a Leftist in the manner he thinks, and more importantly, the way he works. Which is why a bureaucrat never really works, he makes others work. He is there to stall, not solve, and that to my mind is an endearing quality for which we should thank, and not castigate, the Left.
The Left has every right to be angry. The States they run are run-down but the rest of the country is progressing very well without them. This irks them, because their primary belief of equality says that every Indian must be equally poor and not equally rich.
The Left parties hate progress because progress means money, and since they believe in being and behaving poor, riches find no place in their lives. Which is why they will wear linen shirts only when they are not on television. The Left cannot also tolerate any form of globalisation or economic integration. For them, globalisation is Cuba talking to India, and not India talking to the United States, which is why they are opposed to everything that emanates from the US.
They hate George Bush, but then they’ve hated everything that’s American. They hate David Mulford too (the US ambassador to India), but in this regard they are in a majority.
You have to empathise with the Left: they all come from simple backgrounds. The Left is also very honest. And this is for real. You will never see them involved in any scandal relating to money. Their party presidents will never be caught on camera accepting Rs 1 lakh and silly amounts like that.
The Left truly has greater integrity than any other political party, and that is perhaps another reason why we need them so desperately in India.
All said and done, living with the Left is a bit like living with your mother-in-law. You do it in order to maintain peace and harmony, but then it is a powder-keg waiting to explode, and who better to experience this than the sedate Dr Manmohan Singh? There was a time, during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s regime, when I said that the women in his alliance would give him sleepless nights: today the gender has been replaced by an ideology, and I pity Dr Singh’s plight.
Sleeping with the Left is a bit like sleeping with an elephant. Dangerous to say the least, because you never know when it might roll over.