Monday, January 11, 2016

NEWS LETTER::: West Bengal 2016: Awaiting 'Re-Tryst' with Ballot Machines

‘Sonar Bangla’ is heading certainly for a path-breaking political battle in the year 2016.
For the people of West Bengal, the New Year symbolises again a battle about hopes and fear. The hopes of a better Bengal—a pipe dream—and the fear of yet another round of frustration as elections to the State Assembly are round the corner. This will be the acid test for Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress when political polarisation is on rise—with Left and the Congress trying to come together and BJP on the other hand all determined to give Didi a tough fight.

Mamata Banerjee to the voters of West Bengal represents an ideal case of dazzling success and colossal failure.

Her victory in 2011 has created a ‘new her-story’ for the state, say voters in North Bengal townships of Malda and Siliguri as they found the election results exemplary in terms of ousting the communists. “Didi and her party were able to oust the communists who had been ruling the State since 1977 for unhindered 33 years but people also feel betrayed as nothing much changed in terms of governance,” says Ajay Banerjee, an private company employee in commercial town Siliguri. The last four and half years under Mamata Banerjee only saw change in rhetoric and announcements of new projects and thus people are “looking for a change”, he says. The travel around North Bengal— historically dubbed as neglected hub of West Bengal—makes Partho’s claim look relevant. The rural roads are bad, power supply erratic and armies of unemployed youths move around the villages and semi-urban pockets. “The political goondaism has only increased—all former Leftist law-breakers are now Trinamool flag bearers,” says Partho Das, an NGO activist. Walking into rural heartland around Jalpaiguri district in the area—one finds across many takers of Partho’s theory. 

“In last 55 months, Mamata Didi made over 50 visits to North Bengal region and especially Siliguri and Darjeeling region....but nothing much has changed.” said P Sanyal, a teacher in Jalpaiguri.  Rural folks readily endorse the argument and say ‘Mamata regime, now at the fag end of its tenure in power, is now on a new venture spending huge amount of public money and laying foundation stones and inaugurating new projects. But the general refrain is most of these projects are ‘impractical’ and form part of pipe dream as she had promised five years back. “West Bengal is yet to come out of the Leftists’ syndrome of political rhetoric and violence. Rural Bengal is the worst victim,” says Mofidul Islam near Islampur. Thus there are regular reports of deaths of tea garden workers, deteriorating law and order situation and total chaotic administration in education and health. There is already a major issue, for example, of shortage of man power in primary education. “Many schools can go teacherless soon,” says Abhik Chatterjee in Malda.
The District Secretary of All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association Tushar Goswami says, “There are serious flaws in the state government notifications of new recruitment and postings”. In Malda district alone, he says, there is a need for about 9,000 primary teachers to maintain ideal student-teachers ratio but the administration is clueless. On the other hand, political polarisation is on rise leaving Didi and her party little time to focus on administration. “Even otherwise, Bengal has seen only a non performer regime since 2011,” remarks Abhik Chatterjee, also a son of a local Marxist.
In 2011, Trinamool had allied with Congress, SUC and PDS and the move had yielded dividends but by 2016 the table is turned and CPI-M and Congress have made overtures to each other for an alliance to oust Mamata Banerjee.
On the other hand, BJP is certainly hopeful of doing well as in 2014 Lok Sabha polls the saffron party’s vote share had touched near 30 per cent. Accordingly BJP has recast the party in the state with the appointment of new state unit president Dilip Ghosh and popular actress Rupa Ganguli (of Draupadi fame in TV serial Mahabharat) as chief of women wing.
The battlelines have been drawn.
Even a hardliner among CPI-M, Prakash Karat has favoured alliance with Congress giving up his 2008 anti-Nuke deal stance. 

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