The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After easy win, CM home test
Singur, bandh done; tough call on Dec 14

Calcutta, Dec.1: The Left Front today gloated over the apparent failure of Mamata Banerjee’s bandh, thanks mainly to the availability of transport, but it was non-committal on the December 14 strike, called by friendly trade unions.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said his government had taken “all possible measures to keep life normal” today. Still, a government official died near Raiganj in north Bengal while going to work in a bus when a stone thrown from the road struck him.

“Just wait and see what our government does,” Bhattacharjee said in West Midnapore when asked if he would do the same on December 14, when Citu, his party’s labour wing, has called a strike.

Mamata handed him a gilt-edged victory on a platter — first by turning the focus away from Singur with yesterday’s vandalism in the Assembly and then by calling a bandh that had no popular support.

It’s been surprisingly easy battling the challenge from Mamata but Citu, which he has to play on his home turf, will hardly be a walkover.

The chief minister himself opposes shutdowns, and not just in information technology, because it damages his efforts to attract investment.

In less than two weeks, his intentions will come into conflict with Citu and a section of his party’s plans.

Both the CPM and Citu are making a distinction between “our” bandh and “their” (Mamata’s) bandh. “Our” bandh is right, “their” bandh is wrong.

Rattling off numbers of near-normal attendance at Writers’ Buildings and industries, the state CPM secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said the bandh was a “failure and rejected by the people”.

He would not comment on what role his party or the Left Front or the government would assume on December 14.

Mamata, incidentally, has announced her “conditional” support for the strike in protest at the Centre’s “anti-labour, anti-people policies”.

“I refuse to take questions on December 14. The violence on the streets to enforce the bandh today proved Mamata had no public support. There is a gulf of difference between her issue-less bandh and our issue-based strike,” Bose said.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty boasted about his department’s and transport workers’ role in foiling the Trinamul bandh. Around 800 state and 2,000 private buses were on the street, he said.

Chakraborty, who also wears the hat of Citu vice-president, appeared in a different avatar when asked about December 14. “How can we run buses on that day' Transport workers have given 14 days’ bandh notice in advance,” he said.

This is the kind of challenge the chief minister is up against if he seriously attempts to a reprise of December 1 on December 14.

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