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Kerala and Bengal are poles apart.

LAST WEEK, A. K. Antony flew off to Trivandrum. No surprise, considering that his family still lives in the Kerala capital. But what did come as a surprise was that he had gone to inaugurate the new headquarters of a local Malayalam TV channel which is owned by -- now get ready for this -- the CPM. The Congress and the Marxists may have tangoed in Delhi but in the two party system that exists in Kerala, the two have been at each other's throats for more than 53 years.

Antony shared the dais with arch political rivals, the Marxist chief minister V. S. Achutanandan and the powerful state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, among others. I would think it's as unthinkable as Mamata Banerjee lighting the lamp at a Marxist function in Kolkata or Buddhadeb Bhattacharya dropping by at Mamata's place on her birthday.

But my Mallu friends say that despite their bitter, often bloody rivalries, the political class does not look at political opponents as people below respect. A friend tells me that when K. Karunakaran, then leader of the Congress- led opposition turned 70, the Marxist government organised a public felicitation programme attended by thousands of Congressmen and Marxists. More recently, when the state CPM secretary's son got married, the entire top brass of the Congress was in attendance though Pinarayi Vijayan remains the Congress's bitterest enemy.

Contrast this with the same stock in Bengal. Jyoti Babu used to address Mamata as " that 420", and she paid back recently by refusing to attend his funeral. Mamata says to hell with protocol and refuses to attend a function presided over by Manmohan Singh in Kolkata because Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is seen sharing the dais with the Prime Minister.

Such hysterical outbursts help none. Mamata should know that some amount of political decency will help remove the ordinary citizen's disgust with politicians.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 8, 2010

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