Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fall of the Left and Buddhadeb

During a press briefing in May 2006, CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose made a prophetic comment. While speaking on the role of media which was then projecting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the poster boy of reforms, Bose remarked bluntly: “The media has taken the Brand Buddha line. But it can spell trouble for him.” (Source) The outspoken CPI(M) state secretary was expressing his worry that the same media which is making a superhero out of him, was equally capable of abruptly changing color, chameleon-like, and start smearing the chief minister’s image. Biman Bose’s comment came at a time when the political influence and reputation of Buddhadeb was at its peak. He had just won the 2006 state assembly elections with a colossal majority and was hailed as a new-age leader, a “capitalist communist” who was expected to steer Bengal to glory. The industrial lobby, the neo-liberal media and large sections of the urban middle class was praising him animatedly for his single-point industrialization agenda. He was been credited for bringing back hope to a state marred by “despair”. Neo-liberalism advocate The Economist went gaga to extol him for his “reputation for probity,” for being “modest and engaging” on topics from agri-business to consumerism and Indian poetry. From Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Azim Premji of Wipro, many big-shots were lauding him as India’s best chief minister. Unfortunately for him, it took just a year after the famous victory for the Brand Buddha bubble to burst. Within a couple of years the monolithic edifice of the CPI(M) came tumbling down when the people of Bengal delivered a real kick in the teeth to sweep out the Left Front from thirty-four long years of uninterrupted power.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chaos to Creation: the enigma of Bob Dylan (Part: Three)

In 1968, Dylan came out from his eighteen-month long self-imposed exile, once more picked up his acoustic guitar and recorded John Wesley Harding, a soft, somber acoustic album very different from the surrealistic verbosity and flashy musical arrangements of Blonde and Blonde. Unlike the apparently impromptu manner in which he wrote the lyrics of his previous album, every song of the new album was written with more care and completed before he went for recording. The world he described in the songs, as Mike Marqusee has drawn our attention to, is loaded with connotative characters: the immigrants, drifters, outlaws, hobos, greedy landlords, hateful figures of unentitled authority, saints, martyrs, the rich and the poor. Though sounded simple and rustic, the narrative songs are in fact ingrained deep into elemental social themes, revealing several intertwined layers of subtle political message which went almost undetected to the listeners. During the sparkling 1968 Sing Out! interview, John Cohen asked him why his songs aren’t as socially or politically applicable as they were earlier. Absolutely conscious and confident about his intention, Dylan gave a categorical reply to the question and said: “Probably that is because no one cares to see it the way I’m seeing it now, whereas before, I saw it the way they saw it.”