THE ruling party sponsored or you can say the government sponsored 12-hour ‘Bangla bandh’ on April 27, 2010, was ‘a grand success’ in their language. But the Indian Chamber of Commerce had calculated that for this ‘bandh’ West Bengal had to incur a loss of Rs. 496 crores. Jayanta Roy senior vice-president of Indian Chamber of Commerce said, “Around 61-62 per cent of daily production is lost because of a 12-hour ‘bandh’ in West Bengal”. Renowned economist Dipankar Dasgupta said, “Spiralling prices of essential commodities is hurting the common men. But how will a strike help contain inflation?”
There is no convincing answer to the above question from the organisers of the strike. A senior leader of CPI(M) quoted to have said (The Telegraph, 28. 4. 2010) “Problems arise when a bandh is called by the ruling party. We may give our explanation at public meetings or to the media to justify a bandh. But when the ruling party gives a bandh call, it is perceived as a government sponsored protest. So a bandh called by us may not be politically credible in the eyes of people.”
It is a fact that bandhs or strikes have lost its effectiveness. It cannot set things right and at the same time it cannot create any psychological impact or pressure on the minds of those people who are sitting at the helm of affairs. Formerly people used to put so much importance on bandhs called by major parties that they had earned different kind of prestige of their own. But now bandhs have lost their edge.
While branding this bandh as “state-sponsored strike in West Bengal”, an angry Railway Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee declared in Delhi, “The Trinamool Congress is not in favour of strikes”. Mamata had declared before the Lok Sabha polls that she would not call bandhs at drop of a hat – a promise she had kept since then. Mamata last called a 12-hour bandh on April 21, 2008 two years ago.
But then the ruling party of the state has got its own compulsions. This has been mentioned by a senior leader of CPI(M) and a member of state secretariat of the party. He said, “After the Lok Sabha debacle we have our backs to the wall. CPM workers are demoralised. There is a need to mobilise our men ahead of 2011 Assembly polls. So we need a revival and that justifies our bandh and the call for mass resistance. Offence is the best form of defence. The bandh has to be seen in light of the immediate political context…. That is to boost the morale of the cadres given that our party is loosing elections. Today our men were united in making the bandh a success and that’s our intention was.”
A CITU leader and CPM central committee member was more forthcoming, saying, “We have to use these forms of protest because of political reasons. After all, demoralised party workers will have to be enthused and brought back to the streets. We have got to prove that the CPM is not simply gone.”
In the process the CPM leaders had admitted in their statements that “After the Lok Sabha debacle we have our backs to the wall” and “The morale of the cadres had gone to the lowest ebb.” Obviously morale boosting programmes were necessary. Hence, strikes and bandhs were a must for them.
This is one side of the story. The other side being the CPM leaders has been totally confused as to what they should do at this juncture. It seems that the Chief Minister of the state Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has taken a new policy of begging pardon from the public for the mistakes they have committed. On April 26, 2010 in a public meeting at Kolkata he conceded that the city was grappling with anarchy – whether in the realm of fire safety, traffic or pollution.
Earlier, on several occasions, Buddhadeb begged pardon from the people of West Bengal when the communists abused Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in filthy language. They abused Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (who gave us the mantra of Vande Mataram), and Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar etc. They had painted Netaji Subhas as the pet dog of General Tojo, the then Emperor of Japan, in another cartoon Netaji had been shown as donkey on whose back Japani Emperor Tojo was sitting. This had infuriated the sentiment of Bengalis. Ultimately, CPM had to admit that they had wrongly assessed the role of Netaji in freedom movement. Hence, Jyoti Basu, former Chief Minister of the state (who had recently passed away) for the first time apologised to the people for this “criminal mistake” and then the present Chief Minister Bhattacharjee begged pardon from the people number of times.
People, now-adays, jocularly say the state secretariat, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had opened a new department and it’s name is “Apology Department”. One can easily understand that this has been done out of frustration. In fact, they are totally disarrayed.
The Left, deeply entrenched in villages, perceived no threat, but the firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee worked on her own political chemistry to evolve a winning formula. Desperate to dislodge the Left Front from the Writers’ Buildings, she oscillated in search of allies, in the state and the Centre, who could help her breach the Left citadel. She formed alliances with the BJP, Congress and other parties. At one point, she even forged a grand alliance of several outfits in 2004 and 2006 but met with humiliating electoral reverses. Yet, she stormed back into the political centre stage just when she was being written off, sweeping up the stakes thrown up by the farmers of Singur and Nandigram in land battles erupting after the 2006 Assembly polls. Mamata jolted the CPI(M) by inflicting stunning defeats in the 2008 panchayat election. A year later, in the May 2009 parliamentary elections, she left her rival devastated.
Now the election to 81 municipalities of the state will take place on May 30, 2010. The political Pundits are predicting that this is going to be stage rehearsal for Mamata’s party for the Assembly poll of 2011 when, it is expected that the final show down will take place.