For the last five decades West Bengal has lacked a long-term vision. Thirty-four years of Communist rule, which was essentially a false proletarian rule, and nine years of a false poriborton, in which Maa, Maati and Maanush were neglected and exploited, have not been able to impart a long-term vision for the state. Politics of negationism, of violence and of exploitation dominated and no party or leader was capable of imparting a long-term vision for the state. West Bengal, a state which has such huge potential, scope and possibilities, continued to remain stuck at the bottom of the development and growth index. Decades of unimaginative Communist politics, Congress’s ambivalence and compromise with Left politics and the TMC’s direction-less and confrontationist politics has pushed West Bengal to the brink over the last many decades. All of these have sapped her energies, have depleted her potential and completely stunted her growth.
As we move towards the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022, we must also remember that 2022 will also mark 75 years of the creation of West Bengal. As free India’s first industry minister, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee had a long-term vision for the state and worked tirelessly to achieve it during his tenure in the Central cabinet. One of the tallest national leaders from Bengal post-independence, Dr Mookerjee had a national vision, and at the same time, his vision for West Bengal was that of a state which would be a front-ranking one and eventually become a major contributor to India’s growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Sonar Bangla’ has the same goal. He constantly reminds us of the vision and the past of Sonar Bangla, of an age when Bengal was at the forefront, when India looked up to Bengal, when Bengal’s cultural and spiritual richness, industrial and economic growth and output, and intellectual capital continuously inspired India and left imprints across the world. It is a vision which had once permeated young Bengal’s mind and action; it is a vision which had once inspired Bengal’s thought-leaders to work for a refreshing narrative of change.
An array of Bengal’s thought-leaders, led by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and the likes of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Kalidas Nag, Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Radhakamal and Radhakumud Mookerjee, Ramananda Chattopadhayay and so many others, elevated Bengal’s narrative on the global stage. They situated Bengal globally, articulated her many-sided greatness, strove to contextualise the vision of Sonar Bangla and to link it to the story of a new and rising India. All these thought leaders and intellectual rishis nursed in their minds a long-term vision for Bengal: theirs was Lokkho Sonar Bangla. When PM Modi refers to Sonar Bangla, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks of Sonar Bangla, they refer to this rich legacy and effort of the past, which has now been lost and forgotten.
When we speak of Sonar Bangla therefore, we aspire to reinstate that status of West Bengal among the union of states. We aspire to remake Bengal in the mould of her past greatness, we aspire to work and to strive for the recovery of her spiritual and cultural heritage and also reclaim her material and economic status. We aim to put an end to the politics of negationism and of confrontation; we aspire to make West Bengal an equal, dynamic and vibrant stakeholder and contributor to the ‘New India’ story. We aspire to turn West Bengal into one of the leaders of Purvoday—of the rise of eastern India. For instance, West Bengal’s strategic location and position make her the ideal bridge between India, the Indian Ocean and ASEAN and the Far East. Our thought-leaders had this vision; they saw this potential and hence set sail repeatedly, in the past, to establish these connections. The relaying of the dynamic foundations of those links will also open up avenues of prosperity for West Bengal.
To reinstate Sonar Bangla is to reinstate West Bengal as a cultural, spiritual and philosophical role model for India and the world, to reinstate the culture of good governance, ensure rapid and sustained economic and cultural growth, secure the future of our youth, women empowerment, affordable and quality healthcare for all, poverty elimination, work for a comprehensive framework of farmers’ empowerment and rural welfare, emphasise the creation of world class infrastructure in the state, and ensure development for all without discrimination and justice for all, with appeasement to none. It is all of these and much more.
Inspired by Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘New India’ and ‘Sonar Bangla’, the BJP has launched its mega outreach campaign, Lokkho Sonar Bangla. To engage with opinion makers and influencers, to reach out to civil society and to engage with them, to tell them of the vision of Sonar Bangla, to ask them to spell out their vision of it, to ask them to articulate their aspirations, the needs of their region and district and to, dot by dot, create a grand canvas of how Sonar Bangla ought to appear. It is a positive outreach, a positive effort, to generate a positive vision. It aims to address the fundamental questions of what West Bengal has achieved in the last seventy-five years and how she will appear on the centenary of her creation. What has West Bengal contributed to India’s growth? What have the people of West Bengal achieved or received in the last seven decades since the formation of the state? It is through these questions that the path ahead towards a Sonar Bangla lies.
The TMC regime and its chief minister and her ministers and advisors have no vision or urge to work for West Bengal’s greatness. Propping their politics on violence and confrontation, pilferage and revenge, they have failed to think new, to think fresh and to think big for the people of the state. Their politics has now reached the double expiry date. The future of West Bengal lies with the politics of performance, with the politics of service. It is through these that the goal of Sonar Bangla will eventually be reached.
The writer is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.