The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On rival-less road, youth vote for forward march
- A team of 11 students sat down on judgement day to debate, discuss and dream...

Buddha vs Mamata

For the youth brigade, this Assembly election was as much a battle of politics and ideology as it was a war of personalities ' Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee vs Mamata Banerjee. While at the end of the day, Mamata was the subject of much ridicule, the youngsters were all praise for Bhattacharjee.

Even those who were 'anti-CPM' were 'pro-Buddha'. 'He has done a lot for development and change in the state,' felt Subhajoy Roy, a second-year student of English.

Stuti Agarwal, 17, was too young to vote, but if she had a vote, it would have gone to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, although she feels it is time for a change of political colour at Writers' Buildings.

'He has personality, people look up to him, he genuinely works for the people, and has helped in the progress and development of the state,' said the fans of the chief minister, all between 17 and 24 years old.

'He is not corrupt, doesn't indulge in dirty politics and is trying to do good despite resistance from the party,' they gushed.

Some SFI members in the discussion group on Thursday evening pointed out that 'a captain is only as good as his team'. The rest of the students talking politics and development on verdict day felt the CPM had gained from votes cast essentially for The Man and not the party.

The final word on 'Didi' came from Aritra Ghosal, an SFI member from Jadavpur University (JU): 'Opposition is an essential part of any democracy, but no Opposition is better than the one led by Mamata Banerjee.'

While Nilim Bose, an MA student, didn't vote because of the TINA (there is no alternative) factor, Reetam Bhattacharjee, another MA student, felt 'no one' was fit to be chief minister of Bengal.

The winner nearly took it all.

CPM vs the Opposition

Not one among the 11 students who sat down to debate the verdict was surprised by Thursday's CPM landslide. 'It was expected,' was the common refrain, with the poll battle reduced to something of a walkover. There is no alternative to the CPM in Bengal, and no other leadership is capable of changing things better than the 30-year Left Front government. That was the consensus, for better or for worse. Mamata is not an option. Period.

The Opposition has been all but demolished, ensuring that dissenting voices in the Assembly will be drowned, felt Suryasubho Banerjee, a second-year English honours student. That is a dangerous situation, where an already complacent government would tend to take power for granted, warned Deblina Chakraborty, member of an independent students' body in JU. 'We have no choice other than the CPM,' lamented Subhajoy.

Shatarup Ghosh, an SFI member of Asutosh College, was too busy rejoicing: 'The margin of victory has dramatically increased. The people have chosen.'

What they want from the government

Development, development, and more development. 'The CPM should change its name to Capitalist Party of India (Marxist),' smiled Deblina, raising a laugh.

Education is something these young adults are most concerned about.

De-politicisation of education, especially in colleges; bringing English back into the syllabus; upgrading the West Bengal Board syllabus, particularly in vernacular schools; more autonomous colleges; less private engineering colleges' All figured on their wish list.

Health and law-and-order also figured high on the priority list. Government hospitals are in a terrible condition, and the private hospitals take advantage of the situation, felt Suryasubho.

'The police are no better. We have to think twice before going to them in times of need. Political bullying is another problem,' added Inam Hussain Mullick, a second-year English honours student.

More agrarian reforms and agro-based industries; rehabilitation for the poor displaced for development; more urban development; more industries, particularly manufacturing-based; and a more secular approach were some of their other demands.

And when Aritra placed the proposal for trade unions in the IT sector, all hell broke loose. 'Trade unions are anti-progress,' countered Subhojit Sarkar, second-year student of political science.

The final word from Soumyajit Bhattacharya, second-year BA student: 'The ruling Front is changing with the times, so the state's future is in good hands.'

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