The Mamata Banerjee cabinet on Tuesday resolved to change the state’s name, dropping the `West’ to call it simply `Bengal’ in English and `Banga’ or `Bangla’ instead of `Paschimbanga’ in Bengali.
This the third attempt to change the state’s name in the last17 years -it started with the Jyoti Basu government’s effort in1999 -and caps a long history of nomenclature changes of the region (see P4) that happened naturally over several centuries. But both the recent attempts were still-born -more for political reasons -and politics may well play a determining role yet again, nixing the third attempt.
The advantages of the proposed name change are practical and obvious. The proposed name starts with `B’ instead of the current `W’; so official representatives of the state will not have to twiddle their thumb, wa iting for their turn to present the state’s case in all-India meetings (the latest victim is the CM herself, at the recent Inter-State Council meeting).
The drawbacks of the move would generate far greater debate. The `West’ in `West Bengal’ was a reaction to -and acts as a reminder of -the partition of undivided Bengal in 1905. A section of historians would not like the idea. For them and many others, dropping the `West’ from `West Bengal’ would be an attempt at forgetting history.
The process that has to be followed now is also much more daunting than the Bengal cabinet’s Tuesday’s statement of intent. The first experiment in 1999, when Jyoti Basu was CM was nixed by the Vajpayee-led BJP , which at that time hated the idea of trying to forget that Bengal -once upon a time -was undivided. The same party , under a seemingly more hawkish dispensation, is again in office at the Centre. All this counts; both houses of Parliament will have to ratify the state’s decision by two-thirds majority for the state’s wish to be fulfilled. The second attempt to change the name came in 2011, when the Mamata go vernment pitched for `Paschimbanga` as the state’s name after an all-party meeting. But this bid, too, got stuck in the corridors of power in Delhi because her relation with the Congressled UPA-II regime got more and more bitter.
The current effort is likely to test a myriad of political equations that Mamata shares with BJP , Congress and other regional parties. The name-change bill will have a chance only if the personal chemistry between Mamata and PM Narendra Modi works.Neither can the Bengal CM take Congress’s support for granted. And the non-Congressnon-BJP regional parties do not add up to the number required to change a state’s name.
But all this will come into play only after the state assembly passes a bill after an all-party meeting. The Centre will then draft a bill to be approved by twothirds majority of both houses of Parliament.
Parliamentary affairs mini ster Partha Chatterjee said: “The decision to change the state’s name to Banga or Bangla is appropriate with the cerebral and cultural mindscape other than owing to administrative reasons. We will place this proposal before the speaker of the West Bengal assembly who, in turn, may convene a special session of the assembly to discuss the proposal and adopt the name-change bill.“ The government, before this, may call an allparty meet to seek proposals from all parties that have a presence in the assembly .
The immediate reason for the renewed effort may be the CM’s experience at the recent inter-state council meeting in Delhi. She was the last to speak, since “West Bengal“ is last alphabetically. State bureaucrats grumble that union officials and ministers lose interest by the time they speak. A change of name will hopefully change that.
anandabazar patrika epaper 03/08/2016 : http://www.anandabazar.com