India: Mamata Banerjee defeats Congress-Communist alliance, takes oath as CM of West Bengal for second time!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Unlike the neighboring Assam where the ruling Congress party lost to BJP party in the May assembly poll , letting the fanatic Hindutva party to come to power for the fist time in history, West Bengal has retained the government of TMC of Mamata Banerjee.
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee was sworn in as Chief Minister of West Bengal on Friday, the 27th May, beginning her second stint in the once-Left dominated State. She took oath of office and secrecy in Kolkata on Red Road. . She has already submitted her list of council of Ministers to Governor K N Tripathi. Forty-one ministers, including 17 new faces, were sworn in along with her in batches at a function at Red Road in central Kolkata. “There will be representation from all districts, except Malda. In Malda we don’t have any representation,” Ms. Banerjee had said. Darjeeling and Malda are the two districts where the Trinamool failed to open its account.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, among others, attended the function. Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalithaa greeted Mamata on her poll success and for the swearing in ceremony and wished her all success. PM Modi also sent her congratulatory message.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) swept the 2016 polls in West Bengal as results for the 294 Assembly constituencies were declared on May 19. TMC won 211 Congress 44 Left 33 BJP 3 Others 4. TMC gained 27 seats. While despite a grand alliance the Left parties lost 28 seats, the Congress has marginally gained by getting 2 more seats. The TMC has won the assembly poll by decimating all three other major stakeholders, CPM, Congress – both former rulers of the North Eastern state – and BJP which does not have any base in the state. TMC’s victory is historic as both former ruling parties Congress and CPM had fought the poll in alliance of strange bed fellows.
Generally, swearing in ceremony used to take place at Governor’s palace in Kolkata but this time CM Mamata was too eager to let the public also witness the ‘historic’ function. Mamata wanted everyone to join the unique celebrations when she took oath as Chief Minister of West Bengal for a second time on Friday, and so a portion of Kolkata’s arterial Red Road had been closed to traffic for preparations.
As expected West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) obtained brute majority in assembly polls held in May. The imaginary act of miscalculations of the CPI-M to defeat the TMC by the opportunist alliance with Congress has been exposed and it was no less than a mischief against Bengalis, as evident from the decline in vote-share and seat count. After losing 28 seats, the front is now a fringe player in a state which had been its stronghold for 34 years.
Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress expected to host one lakh people at the ceremony, apart from about 200 dignitaries. Red Road – which connects important Kolkata addresses like Fort William where the Army is headquartered, the state assembly and the high court – is now being turned into a sea of blue and white, Mamata Banerjee’s favourite colors. A giant stage, situated on the road, was air conditioned and had three interconnected blocks.
As Mamata Banerjee won a second term as chief minister winning with an even bigger majority than in the last assembly elections in West Bengal people are celebrating all over the state. She trampled upon the opposition, handing the Left its worst ever defeat.
The Left-Congress alliance ultimately failed to bring any color and was washed away by the green wave. As Mamata Banerjee took on her throne for another five years, jokes buzzed around on social media circles of Didi going ‘national’. In one of the memes, ‘Didi’ turned into an all powerful Goddess Durga while her Birbhum strongman Anubrata Mondal became her vahan, riding on whom she is shown scoring over the Left!
This assembly election was a battle between Mamata Banerjee on one side and the Congress-Left alliance and a nondescript BJP on the other. With 211 seats — a significant improvement from the last assembly tally — the 2016 results are a landslide in her favour. The opposition is reduced to a rump. Nothing worked in its favour. On the contrary, trying to mine the Narada and Saradha scams, the central Kolkata flyover collapse and crying hoarse over TMC-sponsored violence have proved to be counter-productive. The people of Bengal had overwhelmingly voted to give her a brute majority.
There are several factors behind the Left’s decimation. One of them is it had underestimated Banerjee’s charisma, her simplicity and plain appeal to common people. To say the people love her would be a tad exaggeration, but they certainly do not want the Left to return. The Red rule still conjures up depressing memories and they hate the left leaders more than the Congressmen. The Left Front’s credibility nosedived further when a section of its loyal supporters saw the alliance as opportunism. It’s not hard to imagine the people’s exasperation with the CPI-M. Surjya Kanta Mishra, the face of the alliance and its chief ministerial candidate, lost by a huge margin.
Bengalis consider Mamata (sister/deedi) as a true communist in green-white dress code. The Left’s blunders have definitely helped the Trinamool Congress, but Banerjee has also played her cards well. She may not have brought big-ticket projects to the state, but her dole politics has kept Bengal’s workforce — 98 per cent of which work in the unorganized sector — happy. In rural Bengal, welfare measures like grains at Rs2 per kilo, financial incentives for girl child’s education and distributing freebies like bicycles have helped her in good measure. The state has come down to a level where the people have realized the impossibility of attracting huge investments for industries from Gujarat and Maharashtra. They are satisfied even if Bengal’s financial prospects appear bleaker than never before.
Banerjee’s other trump card has been providing free housing to the extremely poor in six backward districts and offering employment to villagers in the once Naxal-dominated Junglemahal. This is unprecedented in Indian history. There is no reason as to why people should be unhappy with a leader like Mamata.
Ironically, though the BJP’s vote-share has decreased, it still played the party pooper for the CPM-Congress alliance. The BJP had eaten into the support base of these two parties, thus paving the way for TMC’s victory in multi-cornered fights. The same phenomenon was at work in other parts of Bengal as well. What perhaps explains TMC’s clean sweep in Kolkata, which has traditionally voted against the incumbent, has been the saffron party’s rise at the cost of the Congress and CPI-M. Moreover, the TMC’s unprecedented victory has also come with inroads into those districts which were still propping up the Left.
The venue for the oath ceremony, so far conducted at the governor’s residence or Raj Bhawan – which is also close to Red Road – has stirred a controversy over cost and traffic diversion. “Red Road is recognized as the lifeline of Kolkata. So the lifeline is going to be closed for this, only for celebrations at the cost of the public exchequer. This is untenable,” said the Congress’s Adhir Choudhury. BJP also spoke in similar voice.
The Trinamool, however, says there will be no problems for the people as plans have been put in place to tackle the traffic diversion. “All the arrangements by Kolkata Police are very nice. There is no problem for traffic control. Mamata Banerjee wants everyone to be a part of this historic event,” Trinamool Congress worker Kanwar Singh told NDTV.
The Left, which ruled Bengal for three decades, has also lost the Leader of Opposition post to the Congress, with which it had allied in this election.
The CPI-M’s drubbing will not go down well with the central leadership, especially Prakash Karat who was opposed to the tie-up with the Congress while the Bengali members backed by General Secretary Sitaram Yechury supported the alliance. The Congress piggybacking on the CPI-M has only marginally benefited, having increased its count by two seats.
Today, the CPI-M is on the verge of extinction in Bengal. Its saving grace is Tripura and Kerala, though the former will soon be Banerjee’s hunting ground. She has major plans to increase TMC’s footprint.
As it stands, CM Mamata and her TMC are in a strong position and TMC will fulfill all polll promises. Now that she is settled down as CM, Mamata is expected to speed up all developmental projects to generate employment for the rural and urban populations, halt price rises, modernize transport system, provide quality education and at all levels, including research in universities. Every large town in the state requires facelift urgently.
It should be heartening to know that Mamata Banerjee has not been involved in nay corruption charges during her first term and people have no serious complaints about her rule. In fact, other people’s leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar, Mamata also is the hope for future India.