Rivals come together for manifesto
The Calcutta Club played host to a rare photo opportunity on Wednesday evening as leaders from all major political parties in Bengal stood shoulder to shoulder to accept a people’s manifesto.
The occasion was The Telegraph presents Unputdownable Manifesto, Voice of the People, during which a compilation of people’s wishes was handed over to Sujan Chakraborty of the CPM, Amitabha Chakraborti of the Congress, Dilip Ghosh of the BJP and Sashi Panja of the Trinamul Congress.
The four leaders standing together to get captured in a frame was not the only surprise the event threw up.
Cutting across party lines — and burying their differences — the four unequivocally agreed that the people should set the parties’ agenda and they would try to deliver on the people’s mandate.
“All of us here, on this side (referring to those sitting on the podium), have risen from amongst you and we represent you,” said Panja, who was the last among the leaders to speak.
The doctor-turned-politician stressed an aware populace could keep political parties on their toes. All others on the panel agreed.
Unlike the scenes witnessed on the floor of the Assembly — Panja, Ghosh and Sujan Chakraborty are all MLAs — the leaders were not out to decimate each other at the Calcutta Club.
They patiently sat through a session on what people want in an Unputdownable Manifesto and listened to suggestions from the audience before taking turns to speak.
“Our party has always tried to incorporate the wishes of the people in our manifesto…. Probably, we couldn’t do it always. But I promise that we will try to include the points highlighted during today’s discussion,” said Sujan Chakraborty, leader of the Left Front legislature party in the Assembly.
He won the hearts of the audience with his admission that he often felt ashamed that politicians and their cronies were blamed for corruption.
Amitabha Chakraborti almost echoed him. He pointed out in his address that all politicians didn’t have money stashed in Swiss bank accounts while referring to a comment made by filmmaker Arindam Sil, who had talked about how wealthy political parties and politicians had become these days.
Amitabha Chakraborti went on to explain how the manifesto committee of the Congress, under the leadership of former finance minister P. Chidambaram, conducted a programme similar to the one held at the Calcutta Club.
Chidambaram, Chakraborti said, held consultations with people from various sections of society across the country.
“I will send this manifesto to Mr. Chidambaram and also to the office of Congress president Rahul Gandhi,” said the chairman of the outreach and communications committee of the Bengal unit of the Congress.
Ghosh — known for his fiery speeches — was uncharacteristically tongue-in-cheek.
He acknowledged that he was the junior-most among the panellists — the BJP state president is in active politics for four years; before that he was an RSS pracharak — and thanked The Telegraph for preparing the Unputdownable Manifesto based on the people’s wishlist.
“We often have to spend money and conduct surveys to learn what people want… You gave it to us free,” said Ghosh, drawing laughter from the audience.
Though there were a few moments of one leader trying to steal a march over another — such as Panja asking Amitabha Chakraborti why he got so touchy when Sil spoke about riches of politicians —the programme ended with all smiles.
A perfect photo frame.