‘‘Bengal is Shining’’


West Bengal is reeling like a patient with a chronic illness. Mamata Banerjee's package of relief measures in the Jan- gal Mahal region has helped her in bringing some sort of stability, but the joint forces are still there, actively collaborating with the ruling Trinamul Congress in maintaining hegemony and suppressing all opposition. But it is clear that the wave Mamata Banerjee rode on the eve of the assembly polls has lost much of its steam, and it is the lack of credibility of the CPI(M) that is enabling her to carry on. Very recently, she presented a FIR regarding a murder in the district of Birbhuin in order to exonerate the district president of his party, although according to the wife and daughter-in-law of the victim (the father of a dissident Trinamul Congress candidate), the police forced them to sign a blank sheet of paper and put the names according to their wishes. The fresh FIR lodged by the complainants had the name of that district president and the High Court judge, to whom the case was referred, accused the police of behaving unscrupulously and handed over the case to the CID. The latter too played the game according to the dictates of the ruling party, and the judge asked them why the district president had not been arrested. Then the judge handed over the investigation to a special investigation team. Damayanti Sen, the IPS officer who had unraveled the Park Street rape case—first called a got up affair by the Chief Minister—and earned the ire of Mamata Banerjee refused to lead the SIT on 'health grounds' although she is not on leave. It is clear that she did not want to incur the wrath of the Chief Minister for a second time. It is also curious that the SIT consists of police officers of West Bengal and given Mamata Banerjee's open tribute to that district president (he is a good organizer), it is highly unlikely that the SIT will be able to conduct the investigation properly. This is only one of the many instances that illustrate how Mamata Banerjee is setting up the rule of 'democracy' in West Bengal.

Ms Mamata Banerjee, quite some time ago, declared that she would raise the city of Kolkata to the status of London, showing that she does not know anything about the history and economy of the two cities. Of course, this talk was addressed to the greedy, opportunistic urban upper classes for which Britain and America are two dreamlands. A recent piece of such irresponsible talks is the expressed ambition to raise the newly formed Presidency University to a status that would surpass even the prestigious Oxford. Ms Banerjee here has betrayed an ignorance of the history of the two institutions, and of the respective socio-economic contexts in which the two institutions were built and grew up. And why emphasize the Presidency University alone? It is intriguing that despite all these, quite a few writers, professors, painters etc have clung to Ms Mamata Banerjee. Maybe they share her wisdom. The real thing is a combination of power and pelf. If a retired college teacher gets 50 or 60 thousand rupees per month as honorarium from the government, and if he is not satisfied with his fat pension and wants more money, why shouldn't he share Mamata Banerjee's wisdom? One of the painters got a huge sum from the fraudulent Sarada investment group as the 'sale price' of a television channel; that channel, however, never saw the light of the day.

There are so many other scandals including the scandal regarding the appointment of school teachers. After the open discovery of the scandal, the way Mamata Banerjee's education minister refused to order an investigation, saying that a government officer necessarily tells the truth and that the complainant must have tampered her voice, has exposed the brazenness and hypocrisy of this cabinet colleague of Ms Banerjee. The only ray of hope is that amidst the disillusionment, a third force is slowly emerging, although its strength is not as yet cohesive. The anti-corruption wave in Delhi that put Arvind Kejriwal into power, albeit for a brief period, has already made a small but not insignificant impact in West Bengal. Besides, voices of protest are raging everywhere. Hence real progressives should not lose hope.

Vol. 46, No. 36, Mar 16 - 22, 2014