23 September, 2020

More Benign Than Despot

More Benign Than Despot
Jyoti Basu presides over West Bengal like a stylish patriarch. He is a kind of benign despot, more benign than despot. Nothing moves in the state without his consent or concurrence and the heir-apparents, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Somnath Chatterjee, Biman Bose, realise that as long as Mr Basu can walk unaided they have no chance. Curiously, no one seems to mind. Little is known about Basu's personal life. A lawyer in Bombay with whom Basu stayed some years ago told me that when he went in for his morning bath, he washed his own dhoti. He rarely smiles, has a sly sense of humour ("there is no shortage chief ministers in West Bengal," he tells pesky journalists when they press him on succession), likes two imported chotta pegs in the evening, has a mysterious relationship with his capitalist son Chandan and, of all the communists in his cabinet, he alone sub scribes to Deng's theory that doesn't matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches mice. Few in Calcutta can offer a rational explanation why Basu remains unseduced by prime ministership Age? "If the opportunity had risen 10...


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