It's going on and on in Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said "khub kharap" (very bad) but that was reportedly a reaction to a question asked on her own ill health and not that of the state. An ugly violence broke out at Bhangar area, not far from Kolkata, between the supporters of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPI(M) on Tuesday in the wake of the assault of CPI(M) MLA and former state minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah on Sunday.
It is alleged that the TMC strongman, Arabul Islam, who is known for making the headlines for all the bad reasons, made the first attack before the clash turned worse. The local office of the TMC was also attacked. Islam himself was admitted to a hospital in 'serious condition' although doctors said he had no external injury and his blood pressure was stable. This happened after a few TMC leaders mocked an injured Mollah for doing a drama in the hospital.
Meanwhile, TMC's father-son MPs from East Midnapore district, Shishir and Suvendu Adhikari on Monday appealed to the party workers to begin Operation CPI(M) from Nandigram, the Waterloo of the previous Left Front government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Speaking at a rally, the junior Adhikari clearly said the time has come to erase the CPI(M) ahead of the panchayat elections. The senior Adhikari termed the CPI(M) as a lot of rats.
The battle of Bengal is getting intense as the state inches towards the next panchayat elections. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, during his visit to Mollah in the hospital on Tuesday, said the current trend in Bengal politics is a dangerous one but the problem is: Such a trend of reactionary and revengeful politics had started when his former party led the ruling coalition in the state for over three decades.
When the Left came to power in the state in 1977, the Congress, which was the only opposition then, was in a shambles like in the rest of the country. The all-encompassing party machinery and the leadership of Jyoti Basu made the opposition virtually non-existent in the state politics for a long time. Mamata Banerjee was the only voice of opposition in the state and formed her own party, the TMC, after quitting the Congress but it was impossible for her to challenge the mighty Left machinery as we saw how her party was drubbed in the 2001 and 2006 assembly elections.
The Left was a force that nobody could dare to challenge in those days. The party's totalitarian machinery had made every nook and corner of the society in its own sphere of influence and it was a barren land for any opposition daring to dream about a Bengal free from the Left's clasp. Opposition supporters were afraid to contest elections as ruling party members intimidated them regularly. Left candidates used to win elections by margins that made a mockery of democracy. It was only a party dictatorship that had ruled the state under the guise of democracy.
Death of skilled managers like Anil Biswas and powerful leaders like Subhash Chakrabarti besides the exit of the patriarch, Jyoti Basu, made the CPI(M)'s organisational strength weak and when an inefficient leadership made a blunder in Singur and Nandigram in the name of initiating industrialisation, Mamata and her party had found more than a chance to retaliate.
The mammoth structure of the Left began to decline in the 2007-08 period following the Nandigram firing and despite the CPI(M)'s claims that the land acquisition controversy in Singur would not influence the panchayat elections of 2008, it suffered a blow that shook its powerful roots and established that it was beyond the capacity of a weakening cadre-based party to negate the strong anti-incumbency mood. The slide became more prominent in the subsequent polls and following the reverses in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Left Front government was finally toppled in 2011.
Whether Mamata had any major role in scripting the tale of the CPI(M)'s fall is a different debate. But what is clear in the post-Left Front era is that the TMC chief and her supporters mastered the political style of the CPI(M) perfectly. The only difference is that the new counter-force that has been unleashed in the state post-2011 is not as totalitarian as its predecessor was and many a time, it is going out of control of its own makers.
The problem with the TMC is that it has more leaders than cadres and no matter what Mamata Banerjee claims about her following the Rajdharma (royal duty), there is little in her control. The party, bereft of any ideology and organisation, has no direction to move and its single-minded leaders who just believe in 'Hate CPI(M)' mantra, have no constructive business to pursue. Ministers in Mamata's government are more busy accusing and abusing the CPI(M), even when the latter is in a shambles, and there is little distinction between the party and the government.
This is just a mirror reflection of what had happened in the Left regime when the rulers of the day openly threatened to crush the opposition. There is eventually no change. No wonder. A change comes only when there is a culture alive to strive for it.
The onus is entirely on Mamata Banerjee for her party and administration have no second voice or authority. The party-centric Left regime had seen a gradual decline but the individual-centric TMC days will be ended the moment Mamata Banerjee retires. As a common Bengali, I appeal to her, who is a successful mass leader but a failed administrator, to start contemplating on the future political strategy of her party and government. She has dashed all hopes in less than two years and the shocked citizens of the state, who had expected a change in 2011, will find it difficult to digest the misrule for over three years now.
Option? Mamata should acknowledge that the administration is not her cup of tea and step down from power. Let President's Rule be imposed and fresh elections are held. Anyways, the way the state's politics is heading towards disaster, President's Rule is not a distant reality.