Friday afternoon, Mamata Banerjee’s long march to “liberate” Bengal from the world’s longest democratically elected communist rule ended in a green revolution that was reminiscent of the revolutions — velvet, orange, rose, et al — that once felled the Berlin Wall and one communist regime in eastern Europe after another.
The big difference is this: none of those revolutions, except perhaps the one led by Lech Walesa’s Solidarity in Poland, was the making of a single leader the way the one in Calcutta has been Mamata’s very own.
It was in the making for several years, but the way it gathered momentum in the last few weeks was nothing short of a blitzkrieg that knocked the supposedly mighty edifice of the CPM down without the party leaders having a clue to what was about to hit them.She began her campaign to end the CPM’s rule with the slogan: “Now’s the time” — that became the call to action in Prague’s Velvet Revolution. It proved illusory in 2001 but it has happened now.
But the slogan will take on a completely different meaning now. From now onwards, her years of street fight will be yesterday’s story. Both for Bengal and for Mamata, the story that unfolds from this morning has to be about her vision and work to create a tomorrow. It is not the ordinary change of government that comes and goes with every election, changing little in people’s lives.
For everything that she plans to do, she may have to undo plenty of things. The historic turnabout of the traditionally Leftist Bengal to her side is clear evidence that she has to reverse many of the supposedly irreversible legacies that have led to Bengal’s economic and social decline.Many of these expectations are about undoing things that made the people so angry with the CPM and so despairing of Bengal under it. Before she does anything to bring industries to Bengal, create jobs or dismantle the unconstitutional and illegal power structures created by the CPM, the people would like her to end the tyrannical “party society” that had its stranglehold on every aspect of the common people’s lives everywhere in Bengal. The breaking of the party society would make the people breathe more freely, especially in the villages.
Ashis Chakrabarti in The Telegraph. More HereThis party-first culture crippled many things — economy, health services, the police and the administration. But its most damaging assault was on education which, under the long Left rule, became a matter of petty, sectarian politics that turned teachers’ bodies — in schools, colleges and universities — into what Chinese communists call “work units” or “propaganda teams”.One of the first things she might need to undo is this complete politicisation of education in Bengal.
Muslims were behind the triumph of Mamata Banerjee
Trinamul bags over 90 of the 125 seats with sizeable Muslim electorates
In 2006, when the Left swept to power with 235 seats in the Assembly, it had won 102 of these 125 seats.
Areas with high minority concentrations in Cooch Behar, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Malda overwhelmingly voted for the Mamata-led alliance, sending the signal that Singur, Sachar and Nandigram were fresh in their minds. Hooghly, Howrah, North and South 24-Parganas and even the Red belt of Burdwan presented a similar picture.
Since 2009, the CPM had tried to woo back its Muslim voters by announcing job reservations and socio-economic programmes under the Multi-Sectoral Development Plan.“There is no denying that the CPM tried its best to reclaim Muslim votes. But the minorities had a big fear,” Trinamul secretary-general and leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee said.“They realised that the Left’s admission of mistakes was just a ploy to get back their support. The Muslims didn’t forget that the CPM was out to grab their land.”
The minority drift away from the Left had started well before the Lok Sabha elections. A year earlier, in the 2008 rural polls, the front lost more than 50 per cent of the gram panchayat seats and four zilla parishads to the Opposition in the Left’s first electoral setback after Singur and Nandigram.
In the years since Singur erupted, Mamata has done her bit to woo the minorities, who may have been wary of her earlier association with the BJP.
Wearing a burqa and offering namaz on the dharna manch in Singur was part of the attempt.She also reminded the minorities that she had engaged late Trinamul MP Ajit Panja to fight in court so that the azaan could continue to be broadcast over loudspeakers.
Trinamul workers went around the state telling the minorities that even during her NDA days, Mamata had fought against the anti-terror legislation Pota, which she considered anti-Muslim. Wherever she went across Bengal during the campaign, Mamata would speak of Ram and Rahim or Ishwar and Allah.
Anindya Sengupta in The Telegraph. More HereAfter taking over as railway minister, she introduced trains in areas with minority concentrations, allowed candidates to take recruitment tests in Urdu and announced that a station would be named after Bahadur Shah Zafar. All this paid off.