Mamata's sonar Bangla (2011-) In a surging sea of support, a makeover splash

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 21.07.09
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Calcutta, July 21: From street fighter to chief minister-in-waiting. From fiery rhetoric to a “positive and constructive” agenda for rebuilding Bengal.

Mamata Banerjee today turned her annual Martyrs’ Day rally into a platform to make a presentation of her agenda if she comes to power after the 2011 Assembly elections.

The promises she made — jobs to the unemployed, electricity to each household, pure drinking water, simultaneous development of agriculture and industry and, of course, the restoration of democracy — had been mentioned in her manifestos earlier.

But now they all sounded like a blueprint for action because she seems so close to snatching power from the CPM.

“I have many things to do for Bengal but cannot do them because of the CPM. If you oust the CPM from power here, there will be a flurry of development activities. The old saying — what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow— is bound to return soon when Bengal would once again show the path to the rest of India,” Mamata told the rally at Esplanade amid thunderous cheers from the crowd.

This year’s rally, held every year to commemorate the death of 13 Youth Congress activists in police firing in 1993, marked a difference as it was held against the backdrop of the Trinamul Congress-Congress combine’s phenomenal victory in consecutive elections starting with last year’s panchayat polls.

Other than the massive turnout (5 lakh by one count) — a record for the 16-year-old event and one of the largest ever in the city — the expectation in her voice reflected her belief that 2011 will pitchfork her to Writers’ Buildings, not too far from where she was speaking.

The Trinamul Congress chief sounded optimistic about a change of guard in Bengal in 2011. “Our victory in recent elections have proved that it was not difficult to trounce the CPM despite it being in power for 33 years. A change of wind has started blowing across the state. But we will have to be more constructive and positive to win people’s confidence. We should not oppose things for the sake of opposition only,” she said.

As the crowd braved rain, it was more a chief minister-in-the-making who addressed the gathering from the pulpit.

In her 45-minute speech, a drenched Mamata dwelt at length on the CPM’s “misrule”, firing one missile after another, all dripping trademark alliteration or rhyme.

“CPM has no vision, nor any mission. This is why they don’t know how to carry out development projects. If voted to power, we shall show how to generate jobs for the unemployed. We will have to reply to armed movements with job creation,” she said in an indirect reference to Lalgarh.

Mamata also used the occasion to showcase a pro-industry image she had been cultivating. “There would be a balanced growth of both agriculture and industry in the state. We want agriculture and industry to coexist. If one is hansi, the other is khushi.”

In keeping with the ebullient mood, party-pooper specifics were kept at arm’s length. Mamata did not say if she would use farmland for industry — the main employment generator — in Bengal where close to 70 per cent of land is fertile. Similarly, she promised to improve agriculture and create agro-based industries but did not say how she planned to reduce the people’s dependence on agriculture in Bengal.

Shedding the militant tone that characterised the Singur campaign, Mamata also called for an end to “the reign of terror” in the state since the Lok Sabha elections. “Enough is enough. We want peace in place of terror.”

The Trinamul leader said party-controlled panchayats, zilla parishads and civic bodies would be brought to task if they failed to deliver. “Fix a target and try to reach this within a time frame. Don’t divide between aamra and ora (we and they) so far as welfare jobs are concerned, as the CPM does. Instead, call it aameder kaj (job for everyone).”

Mamata announced a string of party programmes — ranging from a march to Nanoor to a visit to Lalgarh — but asked Trinamul activists not to organise bandhs and road blockades. “Instead, organise peaceful movement since we want to dislodge the CPM democratically,” she said.

AICC general secretary K. Keshava Rao read out text messages from Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and Pranab Mukherjee, wishing the rally success.

Rao said the Congress-Trinamul alliance would remain intact for the 2011 Assembly polls. Trinamul sources claimed that Rao had promised the party the Bowbazar Assembly bypoll seat.