When the representative of the masses – fresh from the streets, clad in a white cotton saree, a tricolour <i>uttariya</i> and rubber sandals – made it to the interiors of the Writer’s Building, the entire state of West Bengal was intoxicated with the determination of Mamata Banerjee. It was the 20th of May, 2011. That iconic day in the history of West Bengal, a day writ in red blood (pun, eh?), a day when the colour green finally replaced a stagnant red.
One year down the line, the battered and bludgeoned state is in an erratic limbo. West Bengal has been staggering beneath the burden of three and a half decades of debt, indifference and assault. The CPI(M) rule – that lasted for the longest time in the history of Communism – was one that had consistently been digging its own grave over the years. And it finally succumbed to a lone warrior of the streets after the fiascos of Nandigram and Singur. The death-knell had been rung with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s advices of ruling the state with an ‘iron fist’. When the whirlwinds of rebellion shook all shores of the CPI(M) Government, the men with their hoes sought for shelter under the <i>mamata</i> of Mamata Didi, and ousted the Marxists from the echelons of power.
The world has vehemently cursed the Hitlers and the Mussolinis, and has not left a stone unturned in castigating the Idi Amins. So when a government took on the hues of a dictatorial one, undoubtedly it was thrown away – and what a furore had it given birth to! From lambasting Mamata Banerjee’s ‘inadequacies’ to prophesying CPI (M)’s early reclamation of the West Bengal government, the Marxists had done it all. However, the power to choose the government still lay embedded in the hands of the public.
West Bengal had the necessity of a leader, and they invented one in Mamata Banerjee. Her exceedingly ordinary appearance and whimsical attitude struck a chord with the bereaved commoners. She had struck the hammer (or sickle) where none could have done – she landed straight within the Writer’s Building, that same place from where she had forcibly been thrown out under the orders of Jyoti Basu – the then Chief Minister of West Bengal – when she had gone to seek justice for a deaf and dumb rape victim on January 7, 1993.
When Mamata took over the charge of the state, West Bengal was buried under a debt of over two lakh crores. She had to create ground beneath her own feet where there existed an abyss of debt and neglect. The state had been a witness to and a victim of rampant corruption, widespread crimes and a rock-solid past of atrocities.
However, what seems most uncanny and unfortunate is the fact that Mamata’s conviction of raising the state to an enviable level in the country has lost itself in the mazes of many petty matters – the cartoon fiasco being the latest in the count. What had once been a conviction cast in rock seemed to have given way to many fractured and fragmented problems – which, if seen analytically – wouldn’t even appear as problems in the face of the many graver ones. And over a course of 365 days, the one question that has time and again hovered over Mamata’s government is that what is it that ails Trinamool?
From the point of view of a person from the grassroots level, Mamata’s government seems to have betrayed its people. False hopes are the forte of every politician. With Mamata Banerjee, it is different. Her ideals still do exist, but so does her severe persecution complex. And so do the innumerable drawbacks of her party and government.
Right from distributing positions of power to most undeserving people – the fickle-minded ones who changed their affiliations from CPI(M) to TMC – to being gulled by sycophants, Mamata seems to have been victimised by all of that. What she perhaps is not yet able to see is that the same people who had ruled the Gram Panchayats during the reign of CPI(M) were the ones in power even under her tenure – the trick: switch over to TMC, and your position remains unthreatened.
During the eternally long period that CPI(M) was in power for, corruption impregnated every single layer of the political spectrum. So much so, that in West Bengal today, there exists no other city – or even a proper town – apart from Kolkata. Power was never decentralised during the CPI(M) rule, and not even for once did the people of the country speak of West Bengal as a developed state. The northern part of the state is almost on the verge of being wiped out from the map of West Bengal today, despite the place being potent enough as far as tourism and fertility of the land are concerned.
In a year, Mamata has tried to bring about change in the affairs of the state. But shedding the skin of complacence and impotence doesn’t seem possible for West Bengal so soon. We can only hope. There are four years in front of Didi. The light that had turned green from red is stuck at yellow now. Perhaps she will steer the state to a ‘greener’ future. Hope is all that there is!