All in the Family
A recent survey conducted by a national English electronic news channel predicted that if general elections are held at this time the Trinamool Congress Party would win 27 out of the 42 parliamentary seats from Bengal. This is a gain of 8 from the present 19 parliamentary seats held by TMC. This survey gave the CPIM and other Left Front parties a total of 12 parliamentary seats, 3 less than the 15 which they now hold. (With 7 seats having gone to Congress and 1 to SUCI). However an editor of a Bengali daily countered the figures, claiming that as many as 41 seats would be won by the TMC. He reasoned that in his extensive travels through the state along with the Mamata Banerjee before the Panchayat polls to be held next year he found that the new Chief Minister has the overwhelming support of the people. He argued further that the Left parties were “virtually “dead” and didn’t have a hope in hell of a revival. Not if parliamentary polls take place two years later in 2014 as per schedule and certainly not now in case the UPA II government fell. He predicted that only one seat – that of North Dinajpur – would go to the Left and that is because in that constituency the TMC has a difficult ally in the Congress Party and tie-up arrangements may not work in that constituency. If the Congress in Bengal behaved itself as per coalition norms then that too would be won. The Left in that case would not get a single parliamentary seat in the 2014 elections according to the editor of the daily. He claimed that the national news channel had a motive for predicting 12 seats for the Left and that was this: the owner of the channel is the relative of a top CPIM leader. But then the editor of the Bengali daily is a Rajya Sabha MP belonging to the TMC!
When early this week, firebrand feminist author Taslima Nasrin tweeted that she had been sexually exploited by acclaimed author and the current Sahitya Akademi President Sunil Gangopadhyay, the timing of the allegations and her motives were questioned in Calcutta’s intellectual circles. The immediate provocation for the tweets as far as Nasrin herself is concerned was Gangopadhyay’s criticism of the Trinamool government’s attempt to ban a recently released book. This book, entitled Musalmander Koronio (What Muslims Should Do) by Nazrul Islam, a top state police officer, has attacked the TMC government’s policies for the Muslims calling these policies populist and smacking of vote-bank politics. Gangopadhyay, in spite of his own assertions to the contrary, has always been deemed to be Left-leaning with connections and close friends in the erstwhile Left Front government. And so, though the most obvious reason for his objection to the ban on the book appeared to be his concern for the democratic right to free speech (as he himself insists it is), some saw in it an anti-TMC-government (and therefore, at least by default, pro-Left) stance. But if most gave Gangopadhyay the benefit of doubt and decided to believe that his anti-ban sentiments had nothing to do with politics but a genuine concern of free speech, Nasrin, who as it now emerges, had issues with him, had other plans. She seized the moment to vent pent-up anger she had evidently been nurturing for a long time and called him a “bhondo” or fake for objecting to the ban, accusing him of being instrumental in getting her own book, the controversial Dwikhondita (Split in Two) banned in Bengal. In her tweets she claimed that Gangopadhyay, a friend of the erstwhile Left Front government, conspired to get her thrown out of Calcutta, to appease Muslim voters (Taslima’s books have been slammed by Muslims for their anti-Islamic content, for which she has been banished from her native country Bangladesh and which had earned her at least one fatwa). She asked: Who is he to question a ban, when he himself had Dwikhandita banned? And then while on the topic of Gangopadhyay – who had been known as Nasrin’s mentor during the time that the Left Front Bengal government welcomed her and gave political asylum – she unleashed a barrage of bottled up anger, making the remarks about sexual exploitation. But in Calcutta questions are being asked about Nasrin’s motives. One argument is: She is a symbol of anti-Islam and though she cannot directly favour a ban as it would go against her self-proclaimed principles of freedom of expression, she would want to make it known that she is distancing herself from a book like Musalmander Koronio. Her ridiculing Sunil Gangopadhyay’s objection to the ban is a sort of oblique endorsement of it, say her critics. The other motive being attributed to Taslima Nasrin’s anti-Sunil Gangopadhyay comments is that she is trying to curry favour with the TMC government so that the present Bengal government welcomes her back to Calcutta, a city she loves. (She has told me that in many interviews). But Taslima has since denied these allegations claiming that the TMC government is hand-in-glove with the Muslim fanatics who have wanted to get rid of her. Indeed, it is unlikely that the TMC government will risk the Muslim vote by bringing back Taslima.
Most Influential Didi
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has made it to a list of 50 most influential people in the world of finance by a Bloomberg News markets survey. According to Robert S. Dieterich of Bloomberg Markets, the determining factor was “The ability to move markets or shape ideas and policies. These are the attributes that define the people who hold sway in the world of finance.” Explaining her qualifications to belong to this power list, Bloomberg News, said, “her Trinamool Congress party, part of the ruling coalition, has stalled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s economic reform agenda by opposing foreign retailers.” The democratic West is clearly besotted with Mamata. From US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s detour to Calcutta during her world tour to drop in on Mamata to Time Magazine’s honouring her as one of the most influential people in the world to the present accolade. From Time to time she may face flak at home for her day-to-day governance but the for the West she will always remain a symbol of the power, a symbol of democracy…she who has defeated 34 years of Communist rule.
Calcutta was shaken up with the news of an 81-year-old woman, Amita Mukherjee, and her two daughters, Mukuta, 51 and Kheya, 47, committing suicide by jumping off from the terrace of a 34-floor high rise residential complex, the day after the woman’s husband, 91-year-old Nihar Mukherjee, died of pneumonia in a city hospital. Though the triple suicide was attributed to depression induced by the death of the head of the household Nihar Mukherjee, no one could really fathom why on earth would the natural death of an elderly gentleman, who had evidently lived a “full life,” cause so much grief to his family as for its members to want to cease to exist. But speaking to Outlook, police officers who have been investigating the case, dismissed any foul play, pointing out that “Joint suicides are not unusual and the crime world is replete with examples such cases.” An officer in charge added, “This is one hundred percent a case of suicide.” Though they would not confirm the reason, they confirmed that a suicide note had been found. The suicide note mentioned that they had donated all their property to a university, which confirmed the fact that one of the women had indeed contacted them in that regard a few days back. The value of the property listed in the note indicated that the family was financially sound. Both Mukuta and Kheya also worked. To make sense of the suicides, we spoke to a relative of the deceased family, 70-year-old Biplam Chatterjee, Amita’s sister’s son, who put things into some perspective. He told us: “Amita Mukherjee was my mother’s own sister and before marriage my aunt was quite ‘normal’. But my aunt’s husband Nihar Mukherjee was a little strange. He was extremely unsocial and kept to himself. He was reticent and I don’t ever remember him even having a friendly chat with anyone forget cracking jokes. In fact, we hardly ever visited them though we lived in the same city. That family kept to themselves. My cousins Mukuta and Kheya never got married even though they were both quite beautiful and were also academically good. They pursued regular activities. Mukuta was a committed environmentalist and animal lover and Kheya was table tennis coach. But the four of them formed a closed unit which no one could penetrate. I think my cousins and aunts believed that if they killed themselves, they would be reunited with my uncle in the afterlife.”
It's the time to...
The all-time-favorite Mithun Chakraborty hit song came alive in a new avatar in an anti-smoking campaign:
“I am a disco dancer…
to ward off cancer…
I am a disco dancer”