In the end of May I attended a a seminar in Calcutta on the occasion of the release of a World Bank report on public services reforms in India. There was an interesting discussion among the erudite participants there.
A significant point raised was the criticality of political leadership, and the importance of "political competition", for effective state action on public services. Political competition is lacking, and the people of Bengal have a right to an opposition political party, just as conscientious citizens also have a duty to provide that political opposition in various forms and means.
At this moment, I believe there is an opportunity for a "People's Development Front" to be built, which talks specifically about the basic issues of people, in a mature and responsible manner, and educates everyone and helps to raise the quality and maturity of political awareness of the populace. This Front could be merely a civic forum, it could have members within and across existing political parties, and it could also become a political party in itself.
I think, at this stage of my life, and in the present situation, this is an important thing to try to do. Just as I believe some people must also continue to work anonymously with the common people, helping to awaken individuals to conscience and dutiful action. With the new govt in place, we need to try to meet the CM as a delegation of progressive ("left-supporting") intellectuals and activists, presenting the key issues and means for state action towards social inclusion and social justice in West Bengal. As a means of empowering the govt in its work towards eliminating poverty and discrimination. There can be a quick preparatory process to write a document, and enlist members.
That will be a challenge thrown to the govt / party; if they do not respond substantively, then that would only clarify that now people like us have to place such matters and the state's apathy before the people.
How can we build a culture of democratic civic and grassroot participation of citizens in becoming aware of national, regional and local issues and their rational, meaningful resolution, the choices and actions underlying that etc? The State will have to be the principal agency of social transformation in India. There will over time come radical electoral reforms. But can citizens have a parallel organisation / network of their own, based in each municipal ward of the city, of individuals who are engaged in reaching out to people, discussing the issues that matter, in informed, transparent, and honest terms, promoting awareness and participation in civic engagement and actions?