Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: tale of two manifestos

ABP group’s English daily The Telegraph has done a ‘psychological analysis’ between Mamata Banerjee and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya based on their recent appearance in two separate Bengali television channels. (Source) According to the newspaper, the ‘down to earth’ Mamata Banerjee was looking energetic, domineering and aggressive compared to the ‘teacher-like’ Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who looked tired. It also stated that “…there was no denying one thing – the Mamata show brought alive her old image as the girl next door.” This familiar bazaar style of analysis is nothing new before any election in Bengal. But this time, Mamata Banerjee has put ABP group think-tanks into a dilemma because according to them she has ‘inclined towards left’ to become ‘Comrade Mamata’. The ABP group is particularly upset with Mamata Banerjee because her bombastic political language in showing many similarities with the distinctive Leftist language that ABP group greatly dislikes. The group therefore has crafted an apparently ambiguous policy to keep a fine balance between criticizing Mamata Banerjee and simultaneously allocating full-time marathon publicity to her. Keeping in mind the immediate consequences of the general elections, ABP group is more worried about the rising role of the Left particularly the CPI(M) in central politics.

There should be no doubt about Mamata Banerjee’s tenacious anti-CPI(M) stance. This is her one and only eternal agenda that has elevated her as the chief opposition voice in Bengal. Her inceptive attempt to wrestle the mighty Marxists of Bengal as a Congress (INC) leader had failed to bloom due to the party’s chronic and acute factionalism. To protest the INC’s ‘secret deals with the Marxists’ she had even gone to the extent to stage a suicide drama by wrapping a shawl around her neck in full public view. For her fanatical rebellion against friends and foes alike she had earned the media nickname ‘rebel without a pause’. (Source)

Alleging the INC as CPI(M)’s B-team, in 1997 she finally split the party and formed Trinamool Congress (TMC). Without any delay, TMC allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and paved the way for the Hindu communalists to spread its root in Bengal. Though in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections TMC unexpectedly won 8 seats but the party could not sustain this euphoric success as well as their bonhomie with the BJP for long. Mamata Banerjee’s habitual autocratic style of functioning and her intention to directly deal with the BJP central leadership while ignoring the State leaders has largely irked the State BJP unit. Within a short period of time Mamata Banerjee also started getting feedbacks about the benefits her party was actually reaping from hobnobbing with the BJP compelled her to worry about her political future. As a consequence of this anxiety, TMC allied with the INC in 2001 assembly polls and after facing electoral thrashing from the Left Front, raised good tantrum against the State Congress leadership and returned back into the BJP fold. From this time onwards Mamata Banerjee’s political graph displayed a steady decline. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls she was the only winning TMC candidate and in the 2006 assembly polls her party faced another devastating electoral defeat and lost more than half of its sitting legislators.

Mamata Banerjee’s fascistic mindset and her obstinate anti-CPI(M) agenda has made her the darling of the reactionary elements active in Bengal society from the early days of her political career. The chronicle of her ascending and descending political career is populated with many predictable and unpredictable bedfellows. She has embraced almost all the opportunist possibilities aimed to trounce the Marxists and attain supreme political power in Bengal but has miserably failed to succeed till date. Thanks to their inept handling of the twin issues of Singur & Nandigram, the Left Front government and the CPI(M) has tremendously helped her to stumble upon a wonderful option previously unexplored by her trial and error method of politics – the option to take cover under a red cloak, impersonating the bona fide Leftists.

Her fictitious Leftist stance became evident when she levitated the two conferred gifts of Singur & Nandigram. She announced that her fight is not against Left politics but particularly against the Communist Party of India (Marxist). To become more Leftist in the eyes of the Bengali populace, Mamata swiftly befriended the ultra-left groups including the Maoists and extended her lap towards expelled, renegade and ‘disillusioned’ political leaders and workers of the CPI(M) and other Left Front constituents. But her unexpected support came from a prominent section of the Bengali intelligentsia and cultural activists. Though most of the agitators were seemingly upset with the ‘pro-rightist, neo-liberal’ bend of the Marxist government and resentful about the ‘Stalinist arrogance’ of the CPI(M), there are sufficient and credible proofs to believe that a specific acrimonious group among the dissenting intelligentsia had other iniquitous motives in their heart. The two sides rapidly came closer with a ‘common cause’. From the early days of her anti-industrialization agitation, Mamata Banerjee drew maximum support from this section and successfully proliferated banal anti-CPI(M) hatred. During that period, a supportive media carefully triggered off anti-CPI(M) public opinion through disinformation and cosmetic allegations of atrocity which had helped to set the TMC euphoria against the absolute monolithic presence of CPI(M) in every nook and corner of the State. Tasting blood, heinous domestic and global quarters pounced into action and acted catalyst to this extraordinary alliance. These quarters felt enthralled to share the credit with Mamata Banerjee about TMC’s ‘considerable’ success in shaking the CPI(M) in Bengal.

To efficiently unnerve the ‘atrocious’ Left Front government, this particular intelligentsia group came out with a unique concept. With the help of ultra-left sympathizers, they brought the Maoists at Mamata Banerjee’s doorstep ‘to support her anti-CPI(M) crusade’. The Maoists became brother-in-arms of the TMC goon’s in Nandigram, Lalgarh and elsewhere in the State. In the last couple of months, the TMC-Maoist combine has killed at least 15 CPI(M) leaders and workers in different districts of Bengal and even targeted the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in West Midnapur. Significantly, no other political party members of Bengal were targeted by the Maoists other than the CPI(M). Not a single one from the intellectual allies of Mamata Banerjee who habitually shed gallons of crocodile tears for the ‘poor people’ of Nandigram has ever condemned any attack on the ‘poor people’ of the CPI(M) and preferred to turn stone-deaf on this issue. Why count the dead who belongs to the CPI(M)? Reporting on the recent political killings in Bengal, The Indian Express though agreed that “CPI(M) workers (are) at the receiving end in most places”, but at the same time did not fail to declare that the killings reveal the “change in political alignment that is sweeping large parts of Bengal” and how “the Trinamool Congress is denting the rural base of the red brigade”. Change, in whatever form it might be is always welcome!

With meticulous and eclectic scheming, her new found friends renovated Mamata Banerjee as a ‘true Leftist’ icon. To generate a Leftist milieu around every TMC gathering, popular IPTA songs of communist mass movements of the past were replicated and performed regularly. Celebrity NGO friends Medha Patkar and Anuradha Talwar helped her to reach national and international ‘bleeding heart’ forums. Within days, the 'matured' Mamata Banerjee became a champion of the farmers cause, started chanting Leftist topics like disinvestment, privatization, foreign direct investment; globalization and big capital – all at one go. Now she certainly needs to light candles in memory of slain Palestinians in Gaza Strip and voice against Israeli aggression. Her friends are also working overtime to titivate her as the guardian of Bengali culture. Delighted by their terrific effort, Mamata Banerjee started bestowing gratuity – Kabir Suman was granted with a TMC ticket from Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat and Suvaprasanna received a huge amount of money from her MP fund to construct a Bangla Bhasa (Bengali Language) memorial in Kolkata.

According to media reports, Suvaprasanna has graciously refused Mamata Banerjee’s offer to contest the elections as he desires to be remembered by posterity ‘only as an artist’. Whether this infamous artist cum art guru will be remembered as an artist or not is debatable but he will definitely be remembered for playing the classy role of Rasputin in Mamata Banerjee’s theatre. Suvaprasanna is valued for his incredible and convincing track record of easily reaching out to ‘significant’ quarters of importance. Another prominent member from this intellectual assembly buzzing around Mamata Banerjee today is the ‘young and innocent’ playwright and actor Bratya Basu. His role is conceivable from an article he wrote for the Trinamool mouthpiece Jago Bangla. In this Bengali article ‘Telling you Comrades’, Bratya Basu wrote, “The renowned painter Suvaprasanna often tells me, ‘Without a change nothing is going to happen to this State’. I believe in these words…everyone knows about the wily ones, those who are earning their good fortune from the direct assistance of the government and CPM party….leaving aside these small number of brokers who are buzzing like flies around the honeycomb of power, there is a great number of people who are honest…I appeal to the genuine CPM. I appeal to you all Comrades that if you really care for your party; if you really want your party’s betterment, then for once remove them from power. … you know that the party is completely rotten now.” Bratya Basu is so accurate! Many of the flies buzzing around Mamata Banerjee’s honeycomb today were convincingly buzzing around the ‘honeycomb of power’ just a few years ago but sadly failed to accumulate honey. His call for ‘Flies of Bengal unite!’ therefore has many followers today. And who else has the sound ability to construct the perfect stage for them except Mamata Banerjee?

To put across a genuine Leftist face, Mamata Banerjee and friends has now attempted to hijack major issues from the CPI(M)’s program book. This move became evident in the recently released TMC election manifesto where Mamata Banerjee allowed her ultra-left friends to bloom. Her loyal supporter media conglomerates were terribly disappointed with the ‘sweet nothings’ of her manifesto and sad because many of the pertinent issues of the manifesto looks as if copied from documents of the CPI(M)’s 17th Party Congress! With striking similarity with the longstanding CPI(M) demand, the TMC manifesto also demands that the States must be allocated 50 per cent of the Central revenue. The manifesto echoed the CPI(M) line when it spoke against the entry of foreign capital in the retail sector, when it opposed disinvestment in the public sector and said that developing local resources and skills are more important than embracing globalization. When it comes to elaborate the industrialization policy of TMC, the manifesto writes: “Agriculture must not be sacrificed at the altar of industry. Both should grow like twins… The Trinamul Congress wants industry but not at the cost of poor farmers”. It also advocated to form a land bank for industrial purpose and declared that SEZs (special economic zones) are bad because it causes environment pollution.

It is doubtful how much Mamata Banerjee really can make out of these bombastic words printed in her party manifesto. Instead, she is more recognizable when she reveals her fantastic future vision concerning Bengal. The TMC chieftain has sung a mesmerizing lullaby for her voters: she will transform the East Midnapore coastal town Digha into Goa, North Bengal into Switzerland and Kolkata into London! Assuring the electorates she also said that “If Trinamool Congress comes to power, we’ll show what is called development”. Clarifying to the bewildered journalists who asked how can the TMC thinks of coming to power in the State when the elections are being held for the Lok Sabha, the ‘girl next door’ politician replied, “I know this is just a Lok Sabha election. But what I want to say is that in future, if Trinamool comes to power in the State we will give shape to this vision.” (Source) How Goa, Switzerland or London fits with her true Leftist scheme is a question that remained unanswered. To appease the Muslim voters, she has affirmed that her party will back a non-BJP government at the center and pronounced that, “… a secular government cannot be one by the Bharatiya Janata Party…I now have made things clear for you”.

Grouped under the pseudonym Swajan (also known as Susheel Samaj), Mamata Banerjee’s intellectual friends now have decided to publish their own ‘manifesto’ in April on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls. (Source) This ‘historic manifesto’ is cogently drafted by Bibhas Chakrabarty, the big name of Bengali theatre with an impressive track record of splitting numerous Kolkata theater groups. Corresponding with the TMC manifesto, the ‘Swajan manifesto’ will also appeal to people to vote for a change. The TMC manifesto is dedicated to the cause of ‘ma, mati, manush’ (mother, soil and people) and speaks ambiguously about industrialization without farmland acquisition. The ‘Swajan manifesto’ similarly is expected to articulate the same line, putting stress on the importance of industrialization in Bengal but not ‘… at the cost of the farmer’s livelihood and by forcibly grabbing land from peasants.’ Both are deceitfully trying to dilute local and national issues, to greatly confuse the people and grab maximum advantage from their pivotal issue of Singur-Nandigram. Though the ‘Swajan manifesto’ will not ask people to vote for or against a particular party, ample hints will be there for the readers to understand which political party this ‘awake and aware’ group is suggesting to vote for or against. It will manifest that ‘a party that has been at the helm of power for more than a decade … is not healthy for democracy’ and will ask the people to be ‘…brave and not get pressurized to vote for a particular political party’. Echoing the sentiment, Bratya Basu wrote in his Jago Bangla article, “… I want that every five year there should be a political change in my State. As a citizen I have a right to demand this change. I really do not think that this change will bring good for everyone or exploitation and oppression will be abolished. All this will continue but in a lesser amount, the common people might live a slight better life.”

But what if the exploited and oppressed, poor and ordinary masses still vote against the TMC? What if the ‘historic manifesto’ turns into a ‘historic blunder’? In spite of the scrupulously crafted anti-Left Front agitation-propaganda for two long years, in a ‘fertile’ terrain where ‘all the Front constituents have lost touch with the common people’, a large section of people has still kept their confidence on the ‘tottering’ Left Front parties in 13 out of 18 district Panchayats. Instead of entirely wiping out the ‘unnerved’ Left Front in the recent Civic polls, they have elected them back with a thumping victory in crucial centers like tribal-dominated Jhargram of West Midnapore and Kolkata’s twin city Howrah.

Elated about their predicted success in the coming Lok Sabha and the subsequent State Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee and friends are presently not willing to give any credit to cynical thoughts. But in reality, reaching their ultimate goal is a Herculean task. After all, the poor people of Bengal, especially the minorities and the oppressed sections of the society are not entirely trustworthy!

Mamata Banerjee image courtesy:
Protest rally image courtesy:
Suvaprasanna image courtesy:
Bratya Basu image courtesy: