Trevor Selvam, Chennai


Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress replaced the Left Front government, which had been in power for the last  three decades. Her victory was made possible by shortcomings of the Left Front government but more importantly because of large scale opposition of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the leading force behind the Left Front Government  by left intellectuals as well as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) who are engaged in armed struggle in many Adivasi areas and whose leader Kishenji was recently killed in West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee’s government has now, as was to be expected, unleashed a rule of terror.


On a recent visit to Kolkata, one was astounded to find the near –McCarthyite, political tension in the air, there.  A visit to the Metro Channel area to see young activists from various schools and colleges expressing their solidarity with the worldwide “Occupy” movement showed that there were about five plain clothes policemen mingling with the students, apart from the regular police who were walking up and down, exercising their “law and order” mandate. Now, all of these cops, referred to in Bengal as khochors,   are well known to the activists, but of course they kept up their comical plain-clothes “surveillance” postures.  Some of the activists were actually chatting them up, having seen them on many occasions!  The cops were making sure a curious and intimidatory presence was felt.


In general people with left wing or social liberal leanings are both amused and concerned about Mamata Banerjee’s daily threatening postures towards everyone. She has also declared that the people of Bengal should be aware of those who hang around College Street, Jadavpur University, Coffee Houses and Basanta Cabin, an old Bengali literary hangout.  She has openly threatened two Jadavpur University professors, without naming them.  She is also talking about bringing in ordinance to stop teachers and students from participating in politics! Of course, she says, during “official hours.” Well! Hello? Is that not step one, before you say certain words, certain phrases, certain expressions are “hereby proscribed”? While she is still reveling at her victory over her hapless, proto-fascist fellow contenders, the CPI(M), she has now started threatening everyone else, from standing panchayat elected officials, to bureaucrats, to  her own partners in the Congress, folks at the Centre  and of course the Maoists and even some of her policemen.


It is also quite amusing to see a retinue of bloated, reptilian, hangers-on following her around and feeding her scraps of paper, while she proclaims what she has achieved in the few months that her party has been in power. Some of it has nothing to do whatsoever with her Party, but she will of course take credit. Timing is of the essence for her. She will take credit for anything! When the Garia subway extension line was inaugurated, she made a huge fanfare. It was just a few days after she had won the elections!  She has now formed a committee to rename streets! Curious! Sounds like Lenin Sarani, Karl Marx Sarani  and Ho Chi Minh Sarani are possibly all on the chopper’s block. Like many other instances in history, a process is underway to rewrite, to censor, to paste over, to stifle and manufacture the truth.


When she wades into the crowd, invisible for the most part, until the cameras finally find her, her handlers, chumchas (baggage handlers and spoon feeders) and assorted types of yes-men and women seem to suggest by their looks, that this is the best thing that has happened to the Bengal mindset since the discovery of “Luchi and Alur Dom” or for the proletarian mindset—“pau ruti and jhola gur.” Her pan-populist politics cannot leave a permanent mark in the soul of Bengal. “She can dabble in Rabindranath and pretend she is also an artist, but her caliber and understanding of Bengal and its history, ranges from the poor to the pathetic,” said a fellow journalist. “But, what can we do? Everyone has gotten on the gravy train!”  In her retinue are some well-known theatre people, artists, singers and performers, whose sorry record of having received buy-out rewards for “licking her posterior “(same journalist) are now well established.  It shows, when they talk to the media. Cringing sycophancy combined with her style of deflective double talk. She talks of peace and development, when her entourage is composed of goon squad leaders, local thugs and switched over former Harmad-ists who have now become Bhairav-ists.  She herself has a record of confabulating with known goons and demanding protection money for her confreres, in the past in the industrial zones around Kolkata. Does she really think that the people watching and hearing the news are that ignorant or have forgotten her past?  “We can name some of the Maastans who have hung around her.”


No spin, no media paid ads, no Goebbels-like repeat-itis will fool the people of Bengal for long. They had been fooled too long by the CPIM.


Last week she pulled off another stunt.


Well calligraphed posters, demanding the “head of one of the ministers” and insisting that certain adjustments be made in food rationing and distribution were mysteriously found in the office of the Minister himself. He called in the Press, immediately, and the circus was repeated for the next 5 days non-stop on all the channels. And with the accompaniment of sound effects like swishing swords and typical fanfare style militaristic music!   The real give away was that Maoists do not distribute such well written and urbanely sophisticated posters. They have a habit of quickly leaving some hurriedly written flyers. To cap it all, the posters were signed off, “Maoist Second Squad.”!! No such thing exists, as far as anybody I met, could ascertain. But it turns out, that there are some vested interests who are threatening to undermine some of the measures that the Ministers want to undertake, purely out of commercial considerations.  So the circus continues! Any extortion, any murder, any kidnapping is routinely first blamed on the Maoists.


She has had a lifelong penchant for speaking from both sides of her mouth, carrying out strange circus acts like stomping on car roofs to make her point, rushing with a mike in hand from one end of the stage to the other like a midget rap star, storming into a police station, embarrassing the police chief and getting her goons released and making bombastic and asinine statements like “We will make Kolkata like London.” Well! London’s economy is collapsing …..  so it is a soft target, to say the least. She recently advised the Indian cricket team that fifteen minutes on the treadmill every day, keeps her in good shape. One cannot but be amused, because her profile is that of a distended eggplant. Perhaps, Mr. Biman Bose, another performer for the CPIM, who is noted for making comical postures and statements, as well, missed this opportunity!


She has stage managed a great publicity coup against the Maoists by producing several prize catches, who it now is very clear, were already expelled by the Maoists quite a while ago and were on the run from both the police and the Maoists. Intelligence officials were smirking when this hoopla was pulled off. They had been arrested several months ago and were kept in safe police custody.  Then she gets them dressed in Indian CRPF commando fatigues and brings them in a display of her “kills” like the Indian princes used to do with their tiger hunts.  Does Mamata B think that the Maoists are high school kids or “rural idiots”?


What then is Mamata’s politics and ideology? To put it plain and simply, “whatever is the flavor of the day and seems right for the occasion.” Deep down inside her, there is a Napoleonic complex, steeped in populist aphorisms. She is desperate for stature. She wants to do what the tall “SS” Ray did in Baranagar and Kashipur, but by other means, possibly grizzlier. She is priming the state for a whole sale massacre of democratic opinion. She came to power, riding on the aspirations of the poor in the wave of forced land acquisitions in the name of “development” by the previous regime and she carefully combined that with the desperation of the Bengali middle class to be “like Mumbai and Delhi”  in their life style and aspirations. In essence Bengali wannabees and Bengali poor and especially Minority peasants, put their lot behind her. And of course, typically of her, she shed some crocodile tears for Azad, the Central Committee member of the Maoists, who was hoodwinked and killed by the Andhra Police in the name of “peace negotiations” and seemed to have won the sympathy of a section of the Maoists. And look what a mess Bengal is in now!


( supplied by Rana Bose)

Novmber 19, 2011

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