Ticket to ride

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

in 1933, Adolf Hitler met with the car baron Ferdinand Porsche to discuss the idea of a car that could carry 5 people, cruise up to 40 km an hour, return around 12 km a litre, and cost only 1,000 Reich Marks. Thus was the origin of the Volkswagen car. In German, the moniker means people's car.

But that was not what it was called to begin with. Soon after his company designed the car as per Hitler's specifications, Porsche developed differences with the German dictator. Never a supporter of Nazism, the automobile baron could not bear the German government naming the car kdf wagen--from Kraft durch Freude, which loosely translates to strength through joy--and using it for Nazi propaganda. Anyway, Porsche's small car factory was taken over by the Allies after the German defeat in World War ii, and rechristened Volkswagen.

The car has long outlived its association with Nazism. Appropriately so. The elegant Volkswagens were way tasteful compared to kdf contraptions. The concept of the people's car has also long outgrown Nazi association. In West Bengal, for instance, the world's longest elected communist government (communist dominated to be precise) has set plans rolling for a car, touted to cost Rs 1,00,000-- a princely sum all right, but one that is sure to make the economic reform-buttressed Indian middle class slink its pockets to realise its ultimate dream. The Tatas have been roped in. Doesn't matter they have no ideological affiliations with the communists--Porsche didn't have any with Hitler.

But let's not carry on comparing Nazi Germany and Left Front-ruled West Bengal. For sure, it's an odious one. All parties comprising West Bengal's ruling coalition tender periodic obeisance at the altar of anti-fascism. And return to power every five years, boasting of a base in the state's rule areas.

Singur, the site of the new dream car factory, is among these. Most who have been told to move to make way for the Tata factory have been supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)--the dominant constituent of West Bengal's ruling coalition. At least they said as much to a fact-finding team of Left-leaning intellectuals that visited Singur recently. But then West Bengal's ruling coalition has now found a new definition of people--car owners and car aspirants, not its humble supporters in Singur.

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