I was eager to have a first hand experience on the matter as to how the city had progressed during this period and to get a precise view of the impact of nearly three-decade long communist rule in Bengal. I had many friends there and was in regular touch with some during this period. Comrade Ghosh was one of them. He was not only a thoroughbred communist; he was also an intellectual, a rare combination. Prior to my visit I had fixed an appointment with him to understand the situation in Bengal. “Welcome Narada,” he said and hugged me, befitting a Bhadralok. “Happy to see you too,” I reciprocated. “How’s Kolkatha doing?” I asked. “You must tell me,” he said. He was right. After all I was in a better position to compare. “Seems to be in a time wrap, everything seems to be there where it was in the seventies, the old buildings, the dilapidated buses and of course the dysfunctional trams,” I said, perhaps caustically, but more with an intention of provoking comrade Ghosh. “Culturally we remain the same,” he said brushing aside my snide remarks.
“Did you notice the new offices of leading Indian and MNCs that have sprung up in the city?” he asked. “Yes I did,” I said and added mischievously “but are you organising some strikes there?” “Don’t be silly Narada, we are inviting investments into Bengal with open arms and industrial climate is as good as it is in any other part of the country. We are for development and growth with equity,” he said in an injured tone. He then explained as to how more and more Indian and MNCs were lining to invest there. The list was impressive.
“Are you suggesting that the leopard has indeed changed its spots? Are you suggesting that your government would not hound out investments, as you once did?” I asked him seriously. He did not answer directly but replied more or less conceding the point “Comrade Budhadev is spot on when he says that we need more investment. And we are following the Chinese Model of welcoming investment.” “As usual, looking outside for inspiration,” I remarked and asked, “Is this not a departure from the Jyoti Basu line? Are you conceding that what you did in the eighties and the nineties damaged the brand image of the State?” “On the contrary Narada, Comrade Basu was like the Hindu God Shiva- the destroyer of the Bourgeois, Comrade Bhudadev is like Brahma, the creator” “Of the Bourgeois?” I added tongue in cheek. He wouldn’t counter this. Perhaps he chose not to. He merely smiled enigmatically. If by quoting Hindu mythology comrade Ghosh had me surprised, by his analogy of comparing Jyoti Basu to Lord Shiva- the “destroyer” and Budhadev to Lord Brahma – the “creator”, he had me confused. Was the comparison merely anecdotal or was it a denouncement of the Basu rule. Is Left turn an about turn? I wouldn’t know.