Asim Kumar Mitra
Mamata’s rural base not tilted
PANCHAYAT election in West Bengal is round the corner. It is scheduled to be held in the last week of April or it would take place in the first week of May. The Trinamool Congress supremo and state chief minister Mamata Banerjee propone the election dates in the month of February, 2013. But Election Commission did not agree. All political parties are busy gearing up their forces keeping eyes on the dates as April-end or early-May.
In the meantime the coalition of TMC-INC had broken. Congress thinks that they are the mainstay of TMC’s victory in the last assembly election to put an end to 34-year misrule of Left Front led by CPM. Still Mamata has not been giving them proper importance in the coalition government. Instead she had started using her administrative steam roller to wipe out Congress from this state. Now the situation has been totally changed. After coming out from the stranglehold of coalition with the TMC, the state Congress has appeared in the state political arena to take revenge against them. And for this, they have already made it clear to the minds of the voters that they are closer to CPM than to TMC. At the central level, as Sonia Gandhi has given direction to two central ministers – Adhir Choudhury and Deepa Dasmunshi to teach Mamata a good lesson for whatever she (Mamata) had done to damage the image of the UPA 2 government at the centre. But the fact remains that in rural Bengal, Congress is finding much difficulty in finding candidates for forthcoming Panchayat election because of factional bickering. Hence the responsible Congress leaders have already come out with the statement saying, “stop abusing Mamata and concentrate on sorting out intra-party bickering as this is going to be counterproductive for them in the rural vote-market.”
The CPM or for that the Communists have been, all through their life, a past master in playing the political game. Fishing in troubled water is their favourite sports and now they are busy in that game in the state. As they found it very difficult to rally public around them except the staunch and committed cadres, they are trying to come closer to the opposition parties of Bengal including the Congress and the BJP. Even BJP is not untouchable for them and their cadres have been asked by the leaders to join BJP-led movement against the ruling party. Barring few urban supporters communists are not getting support from other sections of people. Especially Muslims are not in a mood to look at them. They are trying to woo them but with no positive result.
Under the present circumstances the so called ‘outcaste’ the BJP has become dear to all sections of people and the opposition parties of the state. The state leaders of BJP has not lost any time not only to claim but establish by facts that in all the elections that took place after the assembly election of 2011, they have increased their vote-share although the percentage is very low. Taking this situation in consideration, the state BJP has overhauled its rural policies and its role as a national party has become all the more important.
The political pundits say that as anti-TMC vote is going to be miserably divided for the opposition parties, it would definitely help the ruling party to gain a comfortable position after Panchayat poll.
This is the first time a leader belonging to the minority community, which formed the backbone of Mamata Banerjee’s sweeping victory in May, 2011, has openly questioned the claims the chief minister has been making at government programmes across the state.
Peerzada Toha Siddique, the director of Furfura Dargah Sharif in Hooghly said the other day (16.01.2013), “I will request Mamata Banerjee … You must be aware that she is saying one thing repeatedly and that is she has done 99 per cent of what had to be done for the minority communities. We will not accept such lie.”
In West Bengal there are two types of Muslims – one, Bengali Muslims and two, Bihari Muslims (It includes all non Bengali Muslims). Now, the Mazaar (pilgrimage spot) in Hooghly wields considerable influence among Bengali speaking Muslims, who constitute around 95 per cent of the state’s 30% minority population. By and large this group of Muslims is still continuing their support to Mamata Banerjee. Although in a veiled warning, Siddique said, “We managed to uproot the Left Front despite their 34-year run in the government. It will be comparatively easy to uproot the Trinamool government after five years.”
Trinamool cannot ignore the fact that this influential leader had urged the minority communities to vote for Trinamool in the 2011 assembly poll. A source close to the chief minister’s secretariat said that as the Panchayat election draws near, it is quite likely that the leaders of the minority community would pressure the Mamata Banerjee government to deliver on unfulfilled promises. The source pointed out that in rural Bengal, the minority community makes up 30% of the electorate. Little had been done to meet promises like monthly allowances for imams and muezzins and compensation to families of the Mograhaat hooch tragedy victims, he said.
This is a serious irritant for the Trinamool Congress. Although a very large section of Muslims believe that it is too early to assess the failures and achievements of the present government. Mamata government has only crossed 18 months, they have to go for another 42 months. But at the same the high-handedness and arrogance in the administration of the present government is definitely bearing a negative effect on it. Although Mamata Banerjee is confident in winning the Panchayat election, it is equally important to be seen how she manages to tide over the present problems