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Mamta Banerjee and the series of mistakes – arresting a professor for a cartoon




Mamta Banerjee did what seemed impossible; the Left Front had been in power in West Bengal for decades and seemed to be always on top politically. However, she set herself the game plan of being projected as the primary opposition in the state, and slowly pushed for a change in the Government in the state. Over a period of time, it became clear that the electorate had enough of the slow-growth policies of the Left Front and gave her a sweeping mandate. However, even by that time, it was becoming clear that Mamta was more of a agitationist, and she was in the forefront of opposing some of the attempts (including through the use of force) of trying to bring in more industries to West Bengal. Her tactics succeeded to a large degree, and she was able to oppose the policies of the Left, and played a huge role in pushing the Tata Nano project out of West Bengal. She also set herself against the land takeover attempts, and sought a huge populist image for herself.
And then she became the Chief Minister. A number of people have become chief ministers, and they have adjusted themselves to the demands of becoming more stable politically, recanting the agitation mode. However, there have been a number of actions that Mamta has taken which seem to be leading her down a path where the people who were on her side could start drifting away, and many of her tactics have been held up for public ridicule. When the Hospital fire tragedy happened, arresting all the Directions of the Hospital (except for the Government nominee) seemed like a very adhoc decision; and then the more tragic cases. A situation of rape was labelled by Mamta as a fabrication to demean her Government, and when the police solved it, the responsible police officer was shunted out. No apologies for a wrong decision, or for her ranting, and so on. As a result, it seems that the people of the state are slowly moving away from her, and starting to think that the Left was atleast a sane party.

And then this latest drama. In what would come straight out of a fascist world (and not to be done in India except in an emergency), a professor forwarded a cartoon via email that was somewhat critical of Mamta for the decision to get Dinesh Trivedi to resign as the Railway Minister, and was arrested after a few days. Being thin-skinned is an absolute horror for an Indian politician, since then that gives everybody a chance to take all kinds of pot-shots at the person, and yet that is the message that Mamta is conveying. The clear indication was that the Government cannot stand any kind of criticism; but recent investigation seems to reveal that this was also related to a commercial dispute, where some local Trinamool leaders were trying for a stronghold in a society where the professor was a member of the society and had refused to clear some bills that were suspect. And the local TMC leaders used the excuse of the cartoon to haul up the Professor on a trumped up charge.
The problem is that all the articulation done by Mamta seems to indicate that she sees a persecution complex in everything, and as a result, is opening herself to far more ridicule, both inside and outside West Bengal. Already, the removal of Dinesh Trivedi has removed the sheen of responsible politics and increased the portrayal as an unashamed populist, something that slowly moves a person away from the support of the middle class (which had moved over to supporting Mamta and the TMC).




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