Trinamool's Telangana Turmoil
Mamata Banerjee found herself facing a rather tricky national political situation this week, which though does not directly involve her, nevertheless demanded a response from her, especially considering that her name has been coming up lately as among the possible contenders for the Prime Minister's post, post the Parliamentary elections later this year. First the Telangana issue forced her Trinamool Congress Party to take an out and out anti-division stance which, just before the Lok Sabha polls may alienate pro-separatist voters in her own state, Bengal. While Mamata has categorically ruled out the creation of a separate Gorkha state, the possibility, just before the Parliamentary polls, of an unrest erupting in the hills of North Bengal if agitators in Darjeeling decide to renew their demands post the creation of Telangana, is a development she does not want happening. So to have to spell it out once again just before the elections that the TMC is anti-division is not something that Mamata would have liked to do but had to do anyway as all political parties found themselves having to vote on the Telegana issue.
Mum's The Word for Mamata
If there were expectations also that the TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister, in her capacity as a possible contender for the top post in Central politics, would comment on Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha's announcement to release former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassins, then Mamata has judiciously steered clear of any public response. While Mamata is known to be extremely fond of her former mentor Rajiv Gandhi and has time and again expressed her gratitude to him for providing her with the kind of backing she needed in her initial days in politics since the mid 1980s, her present equation with the Congress Party and given the on and off strained relationship she shares with Sonia and even Rahul to some extent, it is not surprising that she has exercised caution in reacting to the controversial decision by Jayalalitha which has of course subsequently been quashed by the Supreme Court. There is another reason why Mamata may have abstained from issuing a comment. It must be remembered that she has been speaking about that alternative non-Congress, non-BJP Third Federal Front which, though rules out her sworn enemy the CPI-M, certainly does not rule out Jayalalitha and her AIADMK.
B for Bhendetta (and Budget)
Former West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta is on sweet-revenge mode. Dasgupta, who has the distinction of being the longest-serving finance minister of the state, has, for years, faced tough questions, not to mention severe criticism, after presenting his Budget (especially the clauses about zero-deficit) year after year from the Opposition parties. Now the MIT alumnus is getting his own back. Every year, since the TMC came to power in 2011, he has held a post-budget press conference to deconstruct (read demolish) the claims and promises made by the incumbent TMC finance minister Amit Mitra in his Budget. This year, for instance, after Mitra presented his Budget for the Financial Year 2014-2015, Dasgupta called a press conference to question the "misleading and non-transparent" claims and promises. Mitra's claim that the state would achieve a 9.58 per cent growth, for instance, was severely shot down by Dasgupta, who demanded that Mitra delineate exactly how he proposed to achieve this figure. Mitra however refused to respond to the questions, stating that he had already made his point during the budget speech.
In Two Minds
Calcuttans had packed away the woollens. By the end of the first week of February, the cuckoo started singing their distant song announcing the advent of spring. But it was suddenly so hot that it seemed like summer had arrived. The swimsuits and shorts came out. Then on the night of February 15, like a bolt from the blue, we heard the sound of thunder. And then came the rain, bringing back the biting chill. The confusion evidently had created havoc in the lives of some people. Garment hawkers of Gariahat, Calcutta's busy market complex, for instance, bitterly complained about having returned the winter fare to the go-downs and brought in the summer fare. "It's so cold, the thin dresses and shirts are not selling at all," said a hawker. "Daily sales are important for us so we can't afford to lose money like this. Looks like we have to return these and get the shawls and sweaters back." Indeed according to the Meteorological office the cold will continue for at least another few days. In case you're wondering, yes, the monkey caps and toe socks are back too.
Wisdom on Wheels
Written behind an auto: "Hingsha korchish kor...tor shraapey amar bor" (Go ahead and envy me...it's a blessing in disguise...you see)
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