He came, he visited just one village, spoke with inmates of one roadside camp and addressed a gathering of 30-40 people in Garhbeta town. That was George Fernandes whistlestop tour to Midnapore district on September 8. His verdict: "The very structure of constitutional machinery is under threat in West Bengal." Sent by the Centre to assess the situation in the state following Mamata Banerjees threat to resign from the Union cabinet, Fernandes rushed to Midnapore district, without Mamata in tow.
According to district officials in Midnapore, Fernandes neither bothered to ask details about the number of people affected or killed nor met with CPI(M) leaders. All he did was go around with Trinamul leaders, speak to Trinamul supporters at Shyamchandrapur village. Displaced Trinamul supporters, evicted from their villages by CPI(M) goons narrated tales of horror to the minister who was moved enough to remark: "My kurta pyjama are soaked with the tears of the victims today." The only hitch: as an "independent" observer Fernandes did not bother to find out whether there were any CPI(M) victims also.
As Jyoti Basu pointed out in his letter to L.K. Advani: "Fernandes never bothered to talk to district officials nor did he meet me or my deputy chief minister. The Union minister would have done well to visit the villages concerned a year ago when he could have seen the violence unleashed by the Trinamul Congress activists."
In his defence, Fernandes said he visited the affected areas not in his capacity as a minister but as convenor of the nda. Yet, at the end of his visit Fernandes was cautious on whether Presidents rule should be imposed. This, of course, does little to please Mamata who has decided to "wait and watch" for the moment.
With many nda constituents unwilling to support a demand for imposition of Presidents rule in West Bengal or even declaring the five affected districts as "disturbed areas", Fernandes visit has hardly helped the Trinamul. Having been rebuffed by her own government, Mamata does not know how to climb down from her demand for Presidents rule. But knowing the lady, shell have an answer soon.