ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Tender Mercies of Mamata

Will the Trinamool Congress manage to pull off the high stakes game it is playing in West Bengal?

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) President Mamata Banerjee has told the Congress Party that it is free to walk out of their alliance both in the state as well as at the centre. This startling comment about the Congress comes after a series of events, again both at the centre and the state, which has pushed the alliance to the brink. Given that it is just about nine months since the TMC-Congress alliance came to power in West Bengal and that the TMC has had a fairly good run with its demands at the centre, this does appear somewhat perplexing. While there was palpable anger directed at the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M))-led Left Front (lf) government of 34 years which led to a massive mandate to Mamata and her alliance in the assembly elections in 2011, it should not be forgotten that the CPI(M) and the LF retain a substantial chunk of popular support – enough for them to stage a comeback if they manage their p olitics right, or, more crucially, if Mamata gets her politics wrong. Politically, too, for her to retain public support it would seem necessary for her to get the administrative machinery working and address issues like public health and education, which were neglected by the previous dispensation.

However, since taking charge of Writers’ Building there is little evidence that Mamata Banerjee’s administration is investing the time and thought necessary to address these and other issues. What we have witnessed is a series of moves to entrench her political gains, strengthen her organisation and cut the support bases of both the CPI(M) as well as the Congress. Even before the elections, large sections of the CPI(M) rank and file had shifted to the TMC. This was significant since much of the CPI(M)’s political power came from the widespread presence of its cadre in all institutions, localities and public spaces. After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee has concentrated on cementing this shift and breaking the hold of the CPI(M) on the state’s institutions and public spaces. She has also invested in spectacles like the agreement with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, which did not resolve the Gorkhaland issue but only postponed the problem for it to erupt again at a later date. Her handling of the Singur case too was akin to a spectacle where she returned the land, which had been given to the Tatas and on which they have already constructed large buildings, to the original owners who can grow nothing there nor put it to any economic use. Whether it is colleges or offices, theatre spaces or schools, the TMC is focused on uprooting the influence of the CPI(M) and bringing these places under its control.

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