Mamata Banerjee is the worst thing to happen to Bengal since the famine of 1943. Even as the state was misruled by the Left front with an iron hand for 34 dismal years, they at least did so under the pretence of an ideology.
In 2011, Mamata Banerjee promised "poriborton" (change) from this iron hand and her voters fell for it hook, line and sinker. Five years later, the only visible change is that things have gotten worse.
Even Banerjee, who once had a spring in her step, now looks like a dehydrated rosogolla. Perhaps Ellen Glasgow was thinking of West Bengal when she observed, "all change is not growth, as all movement is not forward."
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is old wine in a new bottle. When the CPI(M) cadres who had earlier terrorised and looted the state took cognisance of the public mood in 2011, they simply abandoned the sinking ship like rats and joined the TMC. How can there be true change when the culprits stay in power by simply changing their uniform?
If anything these turncoats have used the TMC's laissez-faire attitude to wreak even more havoc. At least under the Left, there was a façade of intellectualism and a hierarchy that made cadres toe the line. What's happening to West Bengal under the TMC is what happens when the keys to the museum are handed over to a bunch of orangutans.
Mamata Banerjee is a megalomaniac who doesn't answer to anyone. When the Election Commission recently issued her a show cause notice for violation of the model code of conduct, she dared the Commission to "Do whatever you like."
When the Narada sting operation showed 11 of her party's minsters accepting bribes, Banerjee shrugged and stated that she would have changed these candidates if she had known about the sting prior to the polls. She went on to say that she can't change the candidates now as they have already been declared.
This is the pathetic face of TMC leadership which can't even reprimand members who are a liability. There is ample corruption in the rest of India but at least the perpetrators try to be careful. In Bengal, the TMC is like the idiot kid who not only gets caught red-handed but somehow also manages to get his hand stuck in the cookie jar.
After the Saradha scam broke in 2013 and TMC's Madan Mitra was found with his hand in the jar, Mamata Banerjee created a relief fund for the poor victims of the scam by levying an extra ten per cent tax on cigarettes.
While the developed world is trying to curtail the smoking habit of its citizens, Banerjee went on to say that "It wouldn't harm if you smoke some more. Do that and we will be able to collect the required amount [for the fund] quickly." This is a woman so out of touch with reality that I'm surprised she doesn't trip more often.
It has emerged that the collapse of the Vivekananda flyover last month was not an "act of God" but an act of Bengal's famous syndicates. Although the Left front was responsible for giving birth to the nexus between politicians and builders and goons, it is the TMC who made this a staple of modern life in Bengal.
Property in the city is about 30 per cent more expensive because these syndicates use extortion to supply substandard goods and unskilled labour at higher costs to builders who pass on the overheads to the final buyer. The syndicate raj has gotten so brazen under the TMC's rule that they have even found their way into infrastructure projects and government buildings.
The Vivekananda flyover collapsed because substandard materials were used for its construction. Human lives are nothing but collateral damage in Mamata's kakistocracy.
|Vivekananda flyover collapse. (PTI)|
Another offshoot of these syndicates is the effect they have on the youth. The TMC has created no jobs in the last five years and shooed away industries with their doublespeak. Since the property market is the only area that shows any promise, the youth are attracted to this sector and hired by syndicates as muscle. Every Tapan, Diptanu and Hari now wants to make easy money supplying substandard materials to construction sites.
Disfranchised youth are also increasingly mobilised by the promise of a political membership. In order to be in the good books of hooligans, Mamata Banerjee has made sure that there are "youth clubs" every 100m of the city where jobless chengras can play carrom-board and watch cricket matches.
At surface level these clubs have the veneer of a community building initiative. However, any such illusions are shattered when one witnesses them regularly extort money in the form of donations and blast "Saat Samundar Paar" on loudspeakers till 5am.
Mamata Banerjee has no time for anyone but her vote bank. Her appeasement of the Muslim community is so blatant that it's almost offensive. Calcuttans have gotten used to giant billboards showing her perennially offering namaz. There were no communal clashes under the Left rule but as mentioned in a recent Caravan article, "Instances of communal violence in West Bengal have soared since the TMC took power - from 40 incidents in 2011 to over 100 in 2013 and 2014." These clashes are a result of polarising the electorate into two camps: the appeased and the ignored.
Apart from the minority vote, the TMC is also banking on support from other groups. Banerjee has gifted trade licences to street hawkers and made a dog's breakfast of Calcutta's pavements. She has given a carte blanche to the auto and taxi unions to do whatever they please. The police administration has been turned into one giant Golden Retriever.
A college student was assaulted and chastised last week in a Calcutta locality for wearing shorts and smoking. Her assaulters warned her that "you can do this in Mumbai or Delhi but not in Kolkata... never show your face again if you want to live." The illiterate goons who threatened the student are TMC activists and as such will face little action.
This moral policing has sprung up in Bengal only in the last five years. Women have always maintained that Calcutta is the safest city to live in but this changed after Mamata Banerjee started wearing a tin-foil hat and claiming that all assaults on women were a "conspiracy" to malign her name.
The people of Bengal seem in a constant state of departure with no sign of arrival. We are exhausted with hoping for a better tomorrow. The Left ransacked the state and changed Calcutta from a cosmopolitan, industrial hub into an urban wasteland. The public voted for the TMC in 2011 in protest of the Left front but in hindsight such a protest vote was - as the comedian Stewart Lee joked - like soiling your hotel bed in protest against bad service and then realising that now you have to sleep in a soiled bed.
West Bengal is currently voting. A lot of people are excited about the Left-Congress alliance. Some think this may be the flashpoint the BJP wanted to make an entry into the state. It remains to be seen which way the wind blows but one thing is for certain: those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.