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

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  • rate this
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    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.

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    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.

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    Comment number 20.

    Strategic administrative plans be adopted soon.

  • rate this
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    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.

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    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.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    Mamta was struggling in WB for long time to dislodge communist, but never succeeded. But SUCCEEDED only in FAILING Tata-Nano Project. Now, as forecasted by media, seems, has turned to be the turning point of her political career... If it is going to be true, then there will be only change of face and NOT the change of concept "The COMMUNISM"... Whether Mamta or Buddha, Its COMMUNISM in WB...

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    Comment number 15.

    This was/is the tragedy of Bengal she have brilliant Politicians but with WRONG VISION of marxism, hence making Sonar Bengal to Poor & Un- Employed Bengal. If we try to understand the root cause, we will find that we people of Bengal silently tolerate the unritues activities made by Our fate makers from so many years, And these NiDharmi Great Leaders are controlled by the Devil Forces.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    Mamata seems to be personally honest (although it never guarantee her success as administrator, needed to run a state or a ministry). But majority of her top level "leaders" are either highly corrupt or incompetent or both. Most importantly, Mamata listen to none. She probably will never allow democracy in any decision making process or even to run her party. That is not a great sign for Bengal.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    As Exit Poll showing It is a good sign for Bengal to ruled out 34 yrs of Marxism. But simultaneusly we should very much wathcfull from her making Bengal Greenism.

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    Comment number 12.

    BJP is an excellent example from recent past. Congress accumulated that vice most, as it was born long ago and grew bigger in size. In reality, communists LEADERS in Bengal are more educated and honest (as measured by the number of prosecuted politicians and politicians mentioned as “corrupt” by CVC) as compared to ANY political party in India. I hope Mamata will be different this time.

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    Comment number 11.

    The problem was/is, as in almost any political party/movement in India,- Bengal ruling party could not reform itself to match the changing world and national scenario and aspiration of its people. Then it was heavily infiltrated by opportunist people, as the case for almost ANY political party, NGO or almost any organization (in India).

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    Comment number 10.

    It always amuses me when people talk of atrocities from 72 to 77. We witnessed the era with our own eyes. Society was still largely civic, murder was a big time criminal activity and repercussions lingered on for months together. We still talk about Hemanta Basu and Gopal Banerjee. The subsequent 35 years of left rule systematically destroyed civic society in Bengal. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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    Comment number 9.

    In present world, there is no “ism-s”, no communist or otherwise. Anyone can hardly describe current China as a “communist” state. It may be more apt to describe China as a capitalist country, ruled by “communists” (as they describe themselves). Present day Bengal “communists” are no communists for those who actually started communist movement (some call it naxals).

  • rate this
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    Comment number 8.

    As the percentage of people who have witnessed Congress rule (before the communists came to power) is becoming less, the rise of Mamata became possible.

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    Comment number 7.

    Mamata Banerjee is simply bidding for power. She is no more interested in Ma, Maati and Manush any more than were her predecessors. If she were truly driven by People, she would have listened to people to formulate her plans and policies. As she is, she is a dictator relying on none, listening to none. She is a one-woman show.

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    Comment number 6.

    Bengal needed a credible opposition since ages. Those people (including my parents, many relatives) who witnessed Congress atrocities in Bengal (since independence till 1970s, barring a brief period of Dr BC Roy as a CM) are too opposed to any Congress rule. In fact, that public fury against the only ruling and then opposition party allowed communist to rule Bengal for more than 30 years.

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    Comment number 5.

    If she is the "real red", then I cringe at what she will do to West Bengal (already worsened from the way-down state it was as of 1977--that state was never developpable despite of the facade that the British misrulers maintained of such by having Kolkata as capitol), as the "red" of communism has always been a reference to how much blood it would shed!

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    Comment number 4.

    Communism is a system which has been a failure everywhere it has been foisted--starting in 1792 France, and going through far more countries (Russia, mainland China, Cuba, Yugoslavia, ....) with a still-climbing toll so far exceeding 10 crores (and that does not include the tolls inflicted by movements such as Naxalites, JVP, Sendero Luminoso, FARC, M-19, ...), and also in Bengal--enough!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    I hope Bengal communists will now think and reform themselves for next 5 yrs, for next election. I hope Mamata will prove her ability as an administrator (as chief Minister of Bengal), which is totally different than being a "revolutionist" or a politician. It seems that she has imbibed the typical "Congress" party culture of autocracy and surrounded by mostly incompetent cronies.

 

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