Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lok Sabha elections 2009

Modes of industrialisation -- the main issue on which the elections were fought in West Bengal (more specifically in Kolkata)

Revenge complete, cry for peace and lost land

Nandigram/Singur, May 16: Left a widow by “CPM goons”, Sayra Biwi will whisper a few words of thanks when she kneels down to pray tonight.

“My revenge is complete,” said the 33-year-old, a mother of four, as news of Trinamul Congress candidate Subhendu Adhikary’s victory over the CPM’s Lakshman Seth in Tamluk reached Nandigram’s Bainchabari village.

“Now we can hope there will be peace here after all.”

Sayra’s husband had been killed during the CPM’s “recapture” of Nandigram in November 2007. Today, she played with abir outside her home.

“I have been left to bring up my four children on my own, but at least the CPM goons who killed my husband have been defeated,” she said. “When I pray today, I will thank the Almighty for all that He has done for us.”

If Nandigram, in East Midnapore, celebrated, so did villages in Singur, where the land war began.

But unlike in Singur, part of the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat that Trinamul’s Ratna Dey Nag won and where many hope that their land will now be returned, all that the villagers in Nandigram want is peace.

Nearly 1,000 pro-Trinamul villagers, who fled CPM strongholds and took shelter in Maheshpur High School after being terrorised by party workers for “daring” to vote, want to return to their homes.

“We expect Trinamul will ensure peace so that we don’t have to flee our homes any longer,” said Sheikh Saidul Ali, 23, a farm labourer from Satengabari.

Ali had left home on May 8 morning with wife Jahanara and one-year-old son. It was the third time he had to flee since the Red Army’s November 2007 assault.

“I feel happy that the party that stood by us during our agitation against land acquisition has won,” said Abhijit Samanta, 32, who was injured in the March 2007 police firing. “To start with, it can bring peace in Nandigram.”

Trinamul’s victory also meant a change in menu for those stranded in the refugee camp at Maheshpur.

“For the past eight days we have been living on rice, pumpkin curry and dal. Today, for the first time, we were served rohu fish for lunch. Trinamul leaders came and distributed sweets,” said Sheikh Aksar Ali, 35, who lives in Ranichak.

In Singur, Trinamul supporters burst crackers as victory processions wound their way through Beraberi, Ghoshpara, Sahanapara, Saterbheri and Bajemelia. But for the villagers, uppermost on their mind was the return of the land taken over for the Tata Motors project. “We want our land back,” said one as others nodded.

“We want our new MP to ensure that,” said Paramita Das, 43, a housewife in Beraberi whose four-bigha land had been acquired.

“We are farmers,” said Haripada Das, 65, another landloser. “We feel helpless without our land. We don’t need factories in Singur.”

Nano too small to provide shelter to comrades

Calcutta, May 16: The Nano lost its second battle today.

In October, the Left-led government failed to keep the people’s car project in Bengal. Today, the Left parties failed to rid

e it to win urban votes against Mamata Banerjee.

In its worst poll performance in over three decades, the Left lost all the six parliamentary constituencies — Calcutta South, Calcutta North, Jadavpur, Dum Dum, Barasat and Howrah — in which its main poll plank was Mamata’s anti-industry image.

To counter the Trinamul Congress chief’s Maa, Maati, Maanush chant, the Left had drawn up a poll campaign with the exit of the Nano as one of the central themes. By pitching the world’s cheapest car against Mamata’s giant cut-outs, CPM strategists tried to woo urban vot

ers by blaming Mamata for the shift of the Tata Motor’s small car plant from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat.

But the strategy of holding Mamata responsible for Bengal’s failure in becoming Detroit did not pay off and left the CPM wondering what went wrong.

“In the past few years, the party was getting more acceptable among the urban voters and that got reflected even during the Calcutta Municipal Corporation p

olls…. So, we did not expect such a rout in the city and its suburbs,” a senior CPM leader said.

Among the six constituencies in and around the city, Calcutta North consists entirely of urban voters while more than 90 per cent of Calcutta South is urban.

“Pro-industry stance of a party is expected to woo a majority of urban voters who depend on industry and service sectors for their livelihood. But it seems that hasn’t worked this time and that comes as a surprise,” said a professor of economics at St Xavier’s College.

A case in point is Calcutta South from where Mamata won by a margin of 2,19,571 votes by

bagging 57.19 per cent votes.

Despite the predominantly urban character of all the seven Assembly segments — Kasba, Behala East, Behala West, Calcutta Port, Bhowanipore, Rashbehari and Ballygunge — she got more than 51 per cent votes in each of them.

Trinamul’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay also got more than 51 per cent votes in all the seven Assembly segments in Calcutta North — Chowringhee, Entally, Beleghata, Jorasanko, Shyampukur, Manicktala and Kashipur-Belgachhia.

The CPM’s Sujan Chakraborty lost to Trinamul’s Kabir Suman by 56,706 votes in Jadavpur constituency by upsetting all party calculations. Though the CPM had expected that the Jadavpur Assembly segment would give Sujan a decisive lead, the poll outcome told a different story. In 2004, Sujan got a lead of over 23,000 votes from this Assembly segment, which came down to around 19,000 this time.

“There hasn’t been any split in Opposition votes this time and there has been a nation-wide sweep in favour of the Congress. But it is clear that issues like the exit of the Nano has failed to create much impact among the urban voters,” a senior CPM leader said.

Sanjukta Ganguly, a first-time voter in Barasat constituency, tried to explain why the Nano issue failed to prevail over Maa, Mati, Manush. The dentist said she the exit of Tata Motors

from Singur had upset her but she did not consider the pullout while casting her vote.

“A project’s relocation cannot be a poll issue. Mamata has been successful in projecting herself as a leader who stands by the people and that’s why her party has done well,” she said. The Left’s failure to solve the unemployment problem was a much more important issue.

The Left’s role as an ally of the UPA for over four years also cost it dearly in the urban constituencies which supported Mamata’s change chant and gave her a thumping victory.

“The only high point for them was pulling out of the government on the nuclear deal issue… Instead of supporting the government from outside and creating trouble on major policy issues, they should have joined the government and done something for the people of the

state,” said Deep Banerjee, a techie in his early thirties.

Mamata Banerjee: Riding in on people's car

KOLKATA: Cheap cotton saree wrapped clumsily, chappals flapping, hysterical pitch, and eyes smouldering in chronic rage, Mamata Banerjee punches

above her weight. She has finally kayoed the Mighty Marxists.

She had joined battle as a mauled David. Her Trinamool party's Lok Sabha tally was down to just one, and her Assembly strength stripped to a mere 35, Didi had nothing to lose. She played the wild card -a high-stakes gamble on Singur and Nandigram -and won.

Having arm-twisted the CPM into offering a compromise in Singur, she had with typical cussedness stonewalled the gesture.But she refused to blink despite the charges of her sabotaging West Bengal's big chance of industrial salvation. She had shrewdly read the public's anti-Left mood. She went for the jugular.

A high-pitched, no-compromise posture on Singur might have put off urban voters, but Mamata knew that, outside city limits, politics was bare-knuckled. She whipped the land-acquisition fear into a frenzy. It was a primeval insecurity guaranteed to make every farmer rise in revolt.

She may have driven away the people's car, but she has roared up in style.

She carefully kept up her homespun image, refusing to move out of her single-storey, ramshackle Kalighat house. Losses haven't tamed her aggression, or her unpredictability. Instead it has reaffirmed her mantra: if you get an inch, make sure you grab a foot.

Mamata has finally humbled the Left Front. She doesn't botch it up, she could well be the rallying point of all those wanting to bring down Bengal's Red fortress.

Trinamool paints city green
17 May 2009, 0528 hrs IST, Prasenjit Mund & Sumati Yengkhom, TNN

It was noon, and abir seller Sreeram Shaw was quietly putting away the red stock under the cart. There was just a mound of green abir on
display, which he topped up with another sackful and carefully smoothed it into a peak. “No one will buy red today. None has since morning. The green one was selling well and now more and more people are asking for it,” said the youngster.

Beside him, another youth put up his cart on Free School Street. Mantu Shaw had come in late - after seeing the Lok Sabha trends on TV — and he did not bother to bring any red abir. “Bhalo korechis. Lal cholchhe na. Green heavy bikri (Good thing you didn’t bring red. It’s not selling. Green is going great),” Sreeram told him. “This is what they call change, isn’t it,” Mantu replied.

On Judgment Day, it seemed Holi had visited Kolkata a second time. But there was just one colour to be seen in the city — Trinamool Congress’ green, from north to south. Mamata Banerjee’s foot soldiers went out colouring everyone green, whether they liked it or not, including Canadian tourists Doug and Toby on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. The duo, volunteers for Missionaries of Charity, looked bemused. “Elections back home are not this much fun,” said

Doug. “We were not there for Holi, but now we know what it’s like.”

In Kolkata North’s Rajabazar, where CPM’s Md Salim was supposed to be the be-all and end-all, hundreds of Trinamool supporters ruled the streets on bikes. A bunch of them blocked APC Road, zeroed in on a truck and commandeered it. “Gadi ho gaya,” one of them shouted and about 50 of them piled into the back. Green abir was smeared on the bewildered driver and he was made to turn around and drive away for “celebrations”.

“We were angry with Md Salim, and we showed him that,” one of them shouted. A loud cheer went up. A group of glum-looking men stood on the other side of the road, with a dazed look.

On CIT Road, the north-south divide seemed to have melted. One flank of the road falls in

Kolkata North constituency, the other in Kolkata South. In 2004, one side was red — thanks to Md Salim’s landslide win — and the other green, after Mamata’s fourth consecutive victory. Cut to 2009, and there is only the whiff of Trinamool’s ‘joda phool’ on either side.

On Anwar Shah Road in Kolkata South, a giant cutout of Mamata wore a fresh garland while a bunch of 20-or so supporters danced under it. They grabbed hold of a CPM supporter - a neighbour in the para - and dumped fistfuls of abir on him. “Why me...,” the CPM man complained. “Ekhon Aamra-i shob (now we are supreme),” the crowd replied. At Hazra crossing - Mamata’s stronghold - Trinamool supporters sped around whooping and honking, three or four to a bike.

In North Kolkata, CPM workers quietly made way for a boisterous Trinamool procession

past CPM leader Sudhangsu Seal’s house. “The Left’s young electorate has diminished and its impact is clear today,” muttered cadre Anil Das.

At Jadavpur University, M Tech hopefuls Appayan De and Jaideep Dutta were discussing the poll results. “We guess the Congress-Trinamool alliance worked. People wanted to see a Congress government at the Centre and Mamata Banerjee as a minister again. They don’t want the Left complicating things,” De said.

The feeling was echoed by a bunch of Trinamool supporters in Ranikuthi. “The mahajot (alliance) played a crucial role. People wanted a Congress-led secular government, without the Left trying to trip it at every hurdle. Remember, Mamata was excellent during her terms as central minister, especially when she had the railway portfolio,” said Bijoy Halder. “Assembly

chalo is our next cry. We have won the semi-finals. The finals will be held sooner than you think,” said Barun De Mitra, a counting agent for Mamata.

At a tea shop, some 20 feet away, sat a group of glum looking CPM men, with multicoloured hair. They had started the day with red abir - until someone dunked a bucket of green abir on their heads. “Dhele diechhe (they have poured it on),” said one of them.

(Inputs from Devjyot Ghoshal & Arpit Basu)

Sangbad Pratidin