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Is Mamata Banerjee the change Bengal seeks?

By Indrani Roy Mitra
May 13, 2009 10:54 IST
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People of Bengal want a change (read a change in governance)! My God! If I hear the 'c' word again, I might throw up. For, I have been hearing it constantly for the last eight months, almost every minute of the day.

Be it the milkman, newspaper vendor, compounder, who checks my ailing father's blood pressure every morning, dhobi and the budding poet, who visits our home every now and then, has been mentioning it, whatever be the context.

And by 'change' each of them means end of the Left Front regime. Having spent more than 30 years of my life in this state I do empathise with my fellow Bengalis. They have grown tired and frustrated of the long 32 years of the Left Front rule.

But, having said that, I also know for sure that this Rabindrasangeet-crazy clan is ruled by emotions and emotions alone -- logic simply has no room in their minds.

Therefore, when a group of people here started talking of change, they started working towards that goal, a move spearheaded by a group of pro-Right individuals.

Nothing wrong with such devout enthusiasam.

However, my concern is, is it the right time to see Trinamool Congress as an agent of change? Will party chief Mamata Banerjee be the saviour of the masses as she is being portrayed to be? How come a political outfit, which even till recently was looked upon as a 'feeble' opposition suddenly turned out to be the most viable alternative to the Left Front?

Can the Trinamool-Congress alliance, which is being sneered at as nothing but a marriage of convenience dish out a magic pill to cure the ills of a Left Front-ruled state gasping for air? Is this pre-election tie-up going to be a long-lasting one? No one seems to know for sure. Yet everyone wants 'change'.

The definition of the word is not well thought-out either. Unless I am grossly mistaken (having been away from Bengal for quite a few years), it is virtually impossible to rout the Left Front in a single stroke. Therefore, does by 'change' its agents mean the Front's losing some important seats, somewhat in the lines of the last municipal elections? Or does 'change' refer to end of Communist Party of India-Marxist-sponsored violence in West Bengal? Again, no one seems to know for sure.

The other day, our, colleague, contributing photographer Jay Mandal was attacked by Trinamool Congress cadres at Sonachura in Nandigram while he was covering a BJP rally in the area.

A few men wearing Trinamool headbands snatched Jay's cameras, smashed them and injured him badly. We reported the incident and also got in touch with the Trinamool head honchos and requested them to look into the matter.

Almost a week has elapsed. Yet the party failed to come up with a definite answer. Except for an inane 'those were not our men' and a few phone calls to Mandal, nothing concrete was conveyed to us by the party. One did expect a formal apology from a party that claims to be fair and honest in its fight against 'injustice' of any kind.

Perhaps, in this election season, such a small incident was of little significance. That we at rediff are curious to know the outcome of the Trinamool's probe into the incident, is another matter altogether. Let's not digress.

Of late, the Trinamool Congress, as a political party, has done a lot of homework, it has spent a considerable time in grooming itself.

Recently, viewers were taken aback by Mamata Banerjee's demeanour in a regional television show. For, here was a leader who was not getting ruffled by uncomfortable, daring and even offensive questions hurled at her by the viewers, rather she was accepting each one of them as a challenge, never losing either her cool or her smile. In fact, the host of the show got so carried away by her newfound 'charm' that he almost declared her the next chief minister of Bengal. The programme's TRPs soared.

Last weekend, the same channel had West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee speaking his mind about trying on his own (going out of the party mandate, of course) to bring back expelled members like veteran Somnath Chatterjee and the rebellious Saifuddin Chowdhury back into the party fold.

The chief minister said something on the lines of 'I am trying at the personal level to bring them back', creating quite a flutter in the red bastion. This time too the show TRPs boomed.

However, the two television shows send out one clear signal: While the Trinamool Congress chief has carefully altered her stance to win the people's verdict, veteran Buddhababu is shooting his mouth now only to say 'oops, I made a mistake again' then, much to the chagrin of his comrades.

And while the Trinamool Congress is not wasting a minute to gain political mileage out of each 'mistake' that Buddhababu is committing, a section of the intellectuals in the state is getting one excuse after another to impress upon the people of the state to usher in a change.

Bengal has grown tired of the 32-year-old Left Front rule and a change is needed. No one is denying that. But the question is: Will this change be for the better?

If post-election violence in Nandigram is any yardstick to go by, will a Trinamool Congress regime put an end to bloodshed and misrule? One just can't be too sure, at least for the time being.

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Indrani Roy Mitra