Singur: A Waterloo in the making for Mamata? (West Bengal Newsletter)

Sat, Dec 1 2012 12:57 IST | 0 Views | Add your comment
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Kolkata, Dec 1
Mamata Banerjee

Faced with criticism, intra-party feuds and disgruntled farmers, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is facing the gloomiest phase in office, 18 months after she ousted the Left.

While the opposition, including recently divorced ally the Congress, are gunning for her government, Banerjee this week found a new baiter in Press Council of India chairman Markenday Katju.

From calling her "intolerant and whimsical" to questioning her integrity, Katju was vociferous in his attack. He asked her even to apologise to "innocent people who have been victimised" by her administration.

Stating that her ways were "very unhealthy", he warned that Banerjee "will not be able to remain chief minister for long" unless she changed her ways and became more tolerant.

"It is still not too late if you listen to my advice and change your ways," Katju said in a letter addressed to Banerjee.

Banerjee is also facing music within her Trinamool Congress where leaders are gradually turning cynical about its functioning.

The fact that she is at the helm of a financially bankrupt state with investors showing hardly any interest has added to her woes.

While Banerjee says she is unruffled by the growing criticism, the cancellation of a scheduled public meeting at Singur- the very place which catapulted her to power - is seemingly an indication of the political heat reaching her from this volatile rural belt of Hooghly district.

A section of Singur farmers who were in the Banerjee-led movement against Tata Motors in 2007-08 showed their disenchantment by shouting slogans against newly-appointed Minister of State for Agriculture Becharam Manna.

The farmers, who had not accepted cheques from the erstwhile Left Front government for giving away their land for the car project, were upset over not receiving the promised dole of Rs.2,000 and rice at Rs.2 per kg for months.

In a bid to contain the discontent among the farmers and to signal all is well, Banerjee held a district administrative meeting at the same BDO office from where she was driven out during the Left rule.

But the deployment of a huge police force at the Singur block office was a signal that all is not well in the rural belt where Banerjee once walked freely.

The fact that high profile party colleague Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and Singur legislator Rabindranath Bhattacharya have turned rebels has added to her woes.

Chattopadhyay, the first Trinamool legislator after it was formed in 1998, wished to quit after he was assaulted by a rival faction.

Bhattacharya is sulking after being shunted from the agriculture to the low profile statistics and programme implementation portfolio.

He dropped a bombshell claiming that Trinamool cadres were extorting money from people and that Banerjee was aware of it.

It sparked a war of words between Bhattacharya, Banerjee's trusted aide during the 2007 peasant movement in Singur, and Manna, another prominent face of the movement.

Amid the political chaos, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Congress praised Bhattacharya for his "courage".

The CPI-M has predicted an inevitable split in the Trinamool. "It is a matter of time before it splits," said CPI-M leader Surjya Kanta Mishra.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at deyvil@gmail.com)

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