People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 52

December 24, 2006



Mamata Isolated, Withdraws Bandh Call


B Prasant


Mamata Banerjee had given a call on December 18 for a 48-hour- bandh across Bengal over December 21-22. She kept shifting focus on the issue of the bandh. Initially it was over the death of a young woman in Singur and after claiming falsely that the woman was a supporter of her outfit, she raucously cried for a CBI enquiry. 


Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said that the state government would have no objection over sending the case to the union government for such an enquiry, and would she please withdraw the bandh. In the meanwhile, the Bengal Left Front said that it would oppose the bandh and asked the people to ensure that normal life was maintained in both days of the bandh.


Cornered, Mamata Banerjee then blustered that the bandh was actually over the issue of land losers not getting ‘land in compensation.’ Then 12 hours before the bandh, she withdrew the call, looking very angry, very flustered, and very nonsensical but more than that politically isolated in toto even among her own stormtroopers.


The train of events had started two weeks back when Mamata Banerjee went in for a ‘fast unto death’ over the issue of ‘complete withdrawal of the automobile manufacturing project from Singur.’ 


Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Basu, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former prime minister V P Singh, and Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee all called upon her to give up the fast and come to the table for discussion of the issues involved with the state LF government. She refused. That fast is still ‘on.’ 


As the fast continued, Mamata Banerjee started to become more and more politically isolated as the Naxalites and the SUCI started to take over her platform and podium, and go in for violence of the selective kind in Kolkata and in Singur, wrestling back even the hardcore Trinamul activists from the ‘dharna manch.’ The likes of Medha Patkar ever ready to fish in troubled waters chimed in with sob stories about the ‘plight of the poor kisans under the Left Front government.’ 


Mamata would keenly listen to the likes of Patkar but would publicly snap at her own men and women as ‘agents of the CPI (M)’ if they dared open their mouths over the inevitable flop that the bandh was going to be. Her press conferences each evening would inevitably begin for a call of resignation of the Bengal chief minister, making even the Trinamul leadership double up with embarrassment. 


Finally, she realised that her bluff has been called tellingly over the lack of credibility of the bandh. The withdrawal was done in the most opportunistic manner imaginable, something that that only she can go in for. Mamata Banerjee announced before the media that the strike was being ‘postponed’ keeping in mind the ‘difficulties of the shopping Christians’ ahead of the festival. Even those worthies of the media who had always stood staunchly by her every wrong doing, whether from courage of conviction or otherwise, looked sheepish and even embarrassed. 


What had happened at Singur that led to the death of the young woman? The woman Tapasi Malik, having had a bickering quarrel with her parents for some time of late, went out to the fields of Singur near her village very early in the morning of December 18. She was spotted by at least one villager carrying a jerrycan of kerosene.


She was later found charred in a ditch that the Trinamul activists had earlier in the month dug to cook food over a Laxmi Puja ceremony there. The police enquiry has started. Post mortem of the body has been done. The case would be looked after by the state CID and the central CBI. 


Some uncomfortable questions remain even amidst grief that is felt for the departed. How could two TV channels pop up at the scene that early in morning even as the body lay charred? Who were the two well-dressed women who arrived at the scene post-haste and started to brief someone over a cell phone about the ‘successful operation’ that would see an anti-LF government movement gel? Why does Mamata Banerjee insist that the family of the deceased were land losers, whereas in actual practice they were not? Why a comment was made on the scene of the unfortunate happening that ‘events like this would proliferate, just wait and see?’ Why were journalists covering her dharna were suddenly attacked right after reports about the young woman’s death started to be aired?


In the meanwhile, Left Front chairman Biman Basu has thanked for Mamata Banerjee for withdrawing the bandh and has again requested her to end her ‘fast unto death.’ Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who has iterated that the automobile manufacturing project would go ahead as scheduled at Singur has sent a status report on the land position at Singur. The Trinamul Congress chieftain remains on fast and keeps changing her set of demands that would enable her to end her programme. (INN)