By Amritapa Basu:
Badla noy, Bodol chaayi (We want ‘Change’ and not ‘Revenge’)
With this slogan as their USP, Trinamool Congress (TMC) has at last been successful in bringing down the 34-year old red citadel in West Bengal. This call for ‘change’ or poriborton proved beneficial for the TMC supporters in their landslide victory against Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Front government. Historic win it is, but even more historic is the fact that CPIM bagged the State Assembly Elections and came to power seven consecutive times (!!) — an event (or mishap?) that has never happened anywhere in the world — Left Front in West Bengal was the world’s longest-serving democratically-elected communist government. How? Well, I leave that for the panelists and the analysts to discuss in their numerous talk shows while I try to take a look on the way ahead.
Twitter posts praising her candour and simplicity, local news channels coming up with Didi Daily Diary enlisting what she has done throughout the day, 75% of the newspaper covered with her quotes, auto-rickshaws zooming past with her poster at the back (a place hitherto occupied by Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif, if the driver happened to be young) and a TMC flag(s) fluttering overhead, trust me this part of the world is eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, thinking Mamata. She might have toppled the Red Brigade single-handedly, but the most crucial part lies ahead as the whole population in Bengal is looking up to her and expecting her to pull out a magic wand and do a ‘SWISH’.
The state once acclaimed for giving birth to literary geniuses of the country, a past in which many nostalgic Bengalis still seek refuge and complacency has slipped to the 18th position (as per 2001 census). The GenX wants to leave the state at the earliest possible opportunity as there is no scope for good higher education and no satisfactory job opportunities. “This has become an old age home, where old people might want to retire but this place does not have anything for us”, TheTelegraph quoted a young student in the city. Mamata has to devise strategies to stop this ‘brain-drain’ and tap these young potentials for the development for the state.
After the Tata Nano debacle at Singur, industrialization has taken a back-seat in the state. Investors do not want to venture here for the fear of protests and consequent withdrawal which would lead them to incur losses. Approximately, 58000 factories are lying shut all over the state. Mamata has this huge responsibility of luring investors into the state to give it an industrial face-lift. Besides hopes for industrial developments, the small-scale and cottage industries are looking up to Didi with ardent hopes that being a-down-to-earth person she will take steps to revive jute and cotton textile industries in the state. “Didi amader jonyo kichu nishchoyi korbe, amader jinish bikri korte sahajyo korbe!” (Didi will definitely do something for us, she will help us sell our goods) — a jubilant worker was heard saying when the news channels covered the post-election celebrations. High hopes indeed!
Last year, in the beginning of 2010 when I had been to north Bengal, each one of the local people starting from our tour guide to family that served us food at Rishyop to the shopkeepers were unanimous in their opinion that they had received nothing but severe apathy from the government and thus they supported the demand for a separate state, Gorkhaland. “Sarkar hamare liye kuch nehi karti. Yahan pe itne tourist aate hain, kam se kam dhang ka raasta hi banva de” — our car driver said while driving us on a hilly rough terrain as we held on to our seats with our eyes tightly shut. Now that new sarkar is here, like millions others, their hopes too are resting upon Mamata. If she is unable to pacify them, she will have to face cannonballs from the Opposition, Left Front to be precise for being unable to hold the state together. Equally necessary is quelling the Maoists insurgents rampant in the heartland of the state.
While city people are hoping for broader roads, revamped international airport and urban development of smaller townships like Asansol, Durgapur, Raniganj to distribute the massive inflow of population into the city, villages like Amlasole and Borogora are looking forward to basic amenities like clean water and two-square-meals-a-day, and maybe education for their children sometime in near future.
From dancing on Jai Prakash Narayan’s car bonnet in mid-1970s, 26-day long fast in December 2006, sit-in demonstration in front of CM’s house in 2009 to swearing-in as the first woman Chief Minister of Bengal on 20th May, Mamata Banerjee has seriously come a long way. Now the onus is on her to take Bengal to newer heights. ‘Change’ is the buzzword. Mr. Saugata Roy, senior leader of Trinamool Congress and Union Minister of State for Urban Development said in a post-election interview to NDTV, “Mamata Banerjee will not change, she will still wear her cotton saree and her trademark Hawai chappals, no ornaments, she will be her simple self” but millions here are waiting to see her change from a firebrand opposition leader to a successful Chief Minister and the changes induced by her.
So it’s a wait-n-watch situation, as they commonly say picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!
The writer is a Correspondent from Kolkata. In her own words she is “the most apolitical person you could find anywhere”, but felt imperative to pen down this piece after being witness to a historic ‘phenomenon’