Sir — Rudrangshu Mukherjee, in his article, “Discreet charm of losing” (July 25), has written about the actions of two Bengali political figures. Subhas Chandra Bose’s honest endeavours to win Mahatma Gandhi’s confidence — in spite of Bose’s differences with a number of leaders in the Indian National Congress — are in stark contrast to Mamata Banerjee’s manipulative political tactics and her attempts to thwart Pranab Mukherjee’s rise to the post of president. Both Bose and Banerjee perhaps failed to understand how the political game is played at the national level. The methods Bose adopted to gain freedom from British rule and his uncompromising attitude may have irked Congress stalwarts during Gandhi’s time. But Banerjee’s political actions have always been in her own interests. Her self-serving ways led her to protest against any major decision or reform that the United Progressive Alliance government wanted to make — be it the agreement with Bangladesh on sharing the waters of the Teesta river, or the introduction of foreign direct investment in retail. The UPA had pandered to Banerjee’s demands all these months, in spite of her blatant disregard for coalition dharma. Her overzealous approach to the choice of candidates for the president’s post may have backfired on her.
Banerjee’s belief in herself may have helped her bring down the Left Front government in Bengal, but her huge electoral success has gone to her head. She suggested A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s name for the post of president and the names of Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Krishna Bose for the post of vice-president without waiting for their consent. In the process, she embarrassed herself. One hopes that Banerjee will concentrate on governing Bengal properly. Now that Mukherjee is president, a Bengali finally has the chance to make a difference to the country at the national level.
I.N. Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The Congress’s fondness for an unquestioning attitude in its followers has existed from the times of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Leaders such as Subhas Chandra Bose and Mamata Banerjee shunned the Congress in order to keep up their spirited battles for freedom and the rights of the people, even though Banerjee finally had to extend her support to Pranab Mukherjee’s claim to the president’s post. Leaders like Bose did not kowtow to the Congress. His pride remained intact even though he had to leave the party eventually.
Mukul Ranjan Chakraborty, Calcutta
Sir — In his article, Rudrangshu Mukherjee has dwelt upon two political events that are not only decades apart, but are also distinctly different from each other. He infers that Bengal’s politicians have a blinkered vision. But his comments about Subhas Chandra Bose are a bit harsh; he seems to doubt Bose’s ability to have gauged his changing relationship with Gandhi after his re-election as the president of the Congress. Gandhi is said to have lamented the defeat of his protégé, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, against Bose, saying that Sitaramayya’s defeat was his own. Bose could not have been unaware of Gandhi’s displeasure at his win. But as the president of the Congress, he perhaps needed to make efforts to sustain a united party. He quit his post when he could no longer reconcile his unrelenting opposition to British rule with the way in which the Congress was functioning. He could perhaps have held on to the plum post if he had decided to toe Gandhi’s line. But he was destined to shoulder a bigger responsibility as an iconic freedom fighter beyond the nation’s borders.
Banerjee’s recent actions, however, were ill-conceived and egotistical. It is true that Bengali politicians are known to act in haste without thinking about the consequences of their actions.
Srikanta Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — Mamata Banerjee thrives on drama, and is surrounded by sycophants. A state cannot prosper unless it has a rich tradition of dissent. Many people in Bengal prefer to support the ruling party in order to stay safe. Banerjee is adept at street politics but has failed at good governance. She tries to suppress dissent by wooing the city’s intellectuals, making sentimental speeches and advertising her government’s minor achievements. She only protects the interests of those who are loyal to her. In spite of her criticism of the Left Front, she governs just like the latter used to. She blindly opposes the Centre’s policies in order to appease the masses. Bengal needs a leader who believes in substantial economic development and an environment conducive to growth, and has a concrete ideology. Unfortunately, Banerjee has turned Bengal into a state that is always asking the Centre for assistance.
Uttam K. Bhowmik, Tamluk