Who says communism is dead in Bengal?


Is Mamata Banerjee more communist than the communists she is expected to dislodge?

The rabble-rousing street-fighting Trinamool Congress leader is poised to near-singlehandedly unseat the party which has ruled West Bengal state for 34 years without a break. All exit polls point to a rout when ballots are counted on Friday - anything less will be a major loss of face for polling agencies and journalists.

Supporters of the tireless Ms Banerjee - and vast sections of the media who love her earthy charisma - say she has led a remarkably spartan lifestyle by the standards of Indian politicians. Ms Banerjee lives in a modest two-storey house near a stinking canal in a rundown, lower middle-class Calcutta neighbourhood, and dresses and eats simply.

She has been a "super-inclusive politician", gaining the support of peasants, intellectuals, the urban jobless and the working class - precisely the alliance the communists managed to forge before their hold on power began unravelling a few years ago. During protests over the Tata Nano in 2008, Ms Banerjee struck to her guns, demanding that land acquired for a factory to make the world's cheapest car be returned to farmers. The row forced the Tatas to move production out of West Bengal and make the car elsewhere.

Ms Banerjee's war cry - vote for 'Ma-Mati-Manush' (Mother, Land, People) - is primordial in a way the communists would love. Her aim has been to outdo the communists in their rhetoric and ideology, say analysts.

Trinamool Congress leaders have been pushing her left-wing credentials. One of them openly declared in a TV debate that Ms Banerjee was the "actual communist". A party candidate calls her the "only true Marxist in Bengal now". He blamed the Communist Party for supping with the bourgeoisie, a label which still thrives on the street corners and in the coffee houses of Calcutta. Even Ms Banerjee said on her 200-meeting poll campaign that all communists were not bad, "only some were".

So is Ms Banerjee the "Real Red", as a friend calls her? The dividing line between populism and communism, many say, can sometimes be very thin. The Communist Party might get a temporary burial in West Bengal after the results tomorrow. But is communism dead? Even Ms Banerjee may beg to differ.

Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

Atul Gawande: What ails India's public health system

Surgeon-writer Atul Gawande says India's health system is one of the "most complex things" in the world, with excellent doctors tripped up by dysfunctional systems.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Mr. Biswas, you are absolutely correct. As of my last recollection, it was indeed Ms. Banerjee who created the uproar over land allocation by CPIM for the Tata Nano project. It was Ms. Banerjee's calculated politics of peasantry protection that has led to the demise of CPIM. For a change our comrades wanted to bring industrialization to Bengal, and TMC was the one who prevented them from doing so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Let us face it. The people of West Bengal wants change and Mamata is the only option right now. Manata could do well for some time but Mamata does not have the credential to be a good leader. She needs more training in diplomacy and economics and politeness. May be she will earn these qualities in due course. Time can only tell. What happened may be a better option but it could be better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Strategic administrative plans be adopted soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Mamata Bannerjee is a populist and a successful demagogue. The people of West Bengal needed a change from a bunch which has been dominating the political landscape there since 1977. But, where is her platform? How will she stop the rot in West Bengal? Only time will tell. Sorry, I cannot share in the euphoria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Mamta has pushed back C P M to the cradle from where they began. Born in 1964, reared in 1967 with 37 seats in the U F Govt. In 1972 they got 14 and went up to 176 in 1977 and then again back to 37 in 2011. Yes history repeats itself first time, `a tragedy and second time a farce ( Karl Marx)'. All out at 44.


Comments 5 of 22



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.