State Snippets
Calcutta Corner
“A large of around twenty people came and declared ‘Ebar open voting hobey’ (‘Now there will be open ‘voting‘).
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Wasted Barbs

Mamata Banerjee just can’t seem to get over it. Not only did state election commissioner (SEC) Mira Pandey have her way in everything from ensuring that the rural polls are held this month to getting Central paramilitary to man the polling booths in spite of the Bengal chief minister’s objections, her government was also snubbed by the Supreme Court for trying to delay the elections further by pleading that the poll dates coincided with Ramzan. So stung is Mamata by this defeat, she has been lashing out at the SEC at every given opportunity. At a recent campaign rally for instance she apologized to the Muslim community for the inconvenience caused to them because of the Ramzan dates but pleaded helplessness, putting the blame on the SEC chief. Other TMC leaders too have been taking generous digs at the election commissioner from questioning her CPIM connections to wondering when her tenure ends. But unfortunately for the TMC, all these barbs are rather a waste of time because Mira Pandey is neither contesting the elections nor does she need public support to stay on in her position. 

Now It's Didigiri

The first phase of the Panchayat Polls which were held in the three “Maoist-affected” districts of Bengal— Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore— saw more than 80 per cent voter turnout. In fact, polling booths had to remain open till after 2 in the morning as voters kept turning up. While the ruling TMC claimed that this was an indication of the return of democracy to the state after 34 years of Left Dadagiri, reports of stray incidents of violence coming in from across the three districts indicates that the only difference between then and now is that now it’s Didigiri. A presiding officer at one of the polling booths— Dibyendu Mondal— was beaten up by goons allegedly belonging to the ruling party. Narrating the sequence of events he said, “A large of around twenty people came and declared ‘Ebar open voting hobey’ (‘Now there will be open ‘voting‘). When I asked what was ‘open’ voting. The goons told me that it meant unrestricted voting not requiring ids cards or other proof. When I told them that that was not going to happen they told me, ‘For 34 long years we were not allowed to vote, now it’s our turn’ and they beat me up.” Police and paramilitary reinforcements had to been sent to the booth which could not contain the attack with the two Bengal police guards it had earlier been assigned. In another incident a TMC candidate was video recorded magnanimously offering to and then casting the vote on behalf of a voter who allegedly landed up in an inebriated state and wasn’t sure what to do. Wondering what the brouhaha was all about and believing that he had done nothing wrong, he earnestly defended himself saying, “Since he was drunk I wanted to help him out.” 

Higher Powers?

Last week a Barasat court strongly criticized state intelligence agency CID for filing a ridiculously incomplete chargesheet which named only one of the four men accused in the gangrape and murder of a college girl in Kamduni village. Ordering them to take more time and submit a more acceptable chargesheet the Barasat court told CID that it was shocked by the agency’s negligence on such a sensitive case and demanded to know whether they were acting on the behest of higher powers. One of the three men who had been let off the hook in the first chargesheet was alleged to have connections in the ruling party. The TMC has subsequently denied that any of the arrested goons have anything to do with them. This week the CID has submitted another report, where all four arrested have been charged with the crime.

Pet Theme

After two raunchy flicks Charulata 2011 and Teen Kanya, both of which were miserably unaesthetic attempts at depicting women’s sexuality and empowerment, Agnideb Chatterjee has finally delivered a more sensitive film on the same theme. Mrs Sen which, as in all his movies, stars Rituparna Sengupta, and  is about a woman’s discovery that her husband, who was killed in a road accident in Singapore, used to lead a double life. A devoted Bengali wife, Mrs Sen, whose world comprise her husband and his parents learns to deal with life as her world crashes around her with her traditional feminine values and beliefs torn apart by her discovery. Chatterjee, who has a penchant for exploring sexuality in Bengali films without the usual veneers of prudery had earlier failed to strike the right balance, crossing over as he did to the wrong side of tasteful depiction. But Mrs Sen— which too is not devoid of the bedroom scenes— achieves that balance making the lovemaking sequences appear not just entirely credible but essential to the script. While some directors have stories to tell where the narrative becomes most important, with Chatterjee it appears that he has his pet theme— women’s sexuality— and with every new movie he weaves a new story around it. 

Written Behind Auto

Ma dekha dey…noito taka dey (Mother, either give darshan (manifest yourself) or at least give some cash!)

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