The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata reads mood, gives bandh a break

Tamluk, Nov. 12: She has everything to gain from the widespread public discontent over Nandigram but a lot to lose if she is seen to be narrowing it down to her politics of bandh.

Realising this, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has for the first time publicly dissociated herself from “bandhs”. She has shifted the focus to “non-cooperation with the government” from “immobilising Bengal”.

Janaganke achal korte amra chai na, sarkar jaate achal hoy amra shetai korbo (We don’t want to immobilise the people but we will do what it takes to immobilise the government),” Mamata told a media conference at Tamluk today.

A mega-rally is still being lined up on Wednesday at 1pm and it is expected to disrupt traffic in the heart of Calcutta. But this is the first time Mamata is trying to clarify what she meant on Saturday when she threatened to indefinitely turn Bengal “achal” (immobilised).

The defiance on display before the October 31 bandh — when she explained the meaning of achal by declaring that “in plain Bengali, the state will be brought to a standstill” — had given way to an air of restraint today.

The change of tone comes in the middle of rising public sentiment against the state government over the CPM offensive in Nandigram. Mamata realises the politics of bandh is out of sync with the spirit of the protest across the state.

“Our party has not called any bandh. We only supported the bandh called by other parties. We only want to launch an indefinite non-cooperation movement against the state government and not against the people,” she clarified.

Mamata asked Trinamul workers and supporters to pursue the movement without resorting to any violence. “We will carry out our movement peacefully,” she said.

The Trinamul leader appears to fear that if she paralyses normal life, her party might lose popular support. Moreover, the Nandigram campaign might be diluted.

She also announced her decision to participate in Wednesday’s mahamichhil from College Square to Esplanade but not under her party banner. “We will take part in the mahamichhil on Wednesday leaving behind our party flags. I appeal to all to come and take part in the procession,” Mamata said.

Despite staying at Tamluk through Monday, Mamata remained inside a hotel and did not venture into Nandigram. By doing this, she also kept away from any kind of controversy. If Mamata were stopped by CPM supporters midway, tension could have flared up and the blame laid at her door.

Publicly, however, she said the government had planned to arrest her if she went out. “I have information that I will be arrested if I go out. Moreover, I will not be able to face the despair of the common people.”

Trinamul functionaries said that perhaps Mamata’s shift of focus came following reports of stray violence during Monday’s bandh. “Mamata doesn’t want to dilute her agitation on the Nandigram issue by associating her party with a bandh. We need people’s support right now,” a Trinamul leader said.

Officially, Trinamul leaders would only say that Nandigram was of greater importance now than anything else. “We are treading carefully to highlight an important issue like Nandigram,” said Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

shutdown off

Tuesday’s bandhs have been called off. The SUCI dropped the call citing Chhath Puja later this week. The BJP also called off its bandh on the same ground but L.K. Advani is scheduled to be in the state on Tuesday to visit Nandigram.

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