Calcutta Corner

In Calcutta, Rahul found himself facing empty chairs, much like Mamata had done at the Ramlila grounds. Only in Rahul's case, the chairs were all upturned.
Calcutta Corner

Rain Plays Spoil-Sport
As political pundits speculate a washout for Congress in the upcoming Parliamentary elections, the Calcutta visit of the party's vice president Rahul Gandhi literally turned into one. Not that there was a huge turnout anyway. Since Congress was uprooted by the Left in 1977 following the Emergency, the party has not had much luck in the state. Any recent visibility is usually attributed to its tie-up with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. But now that that has fallen through, the party finds itself alone. The crowd waiting for the heir to the Gandhi throne was, to begin with, nothing to write home about. Then suddenly dark clouds gathered across the horizon, hanging like a pall of gloom over the Shaheed Minar grounds, the venue of the Rahul Gandhi public rally. As people who had gathered looked up, wondering if they should stay or go, strong gusts of wind started blowing. And then came the rain. People ran for cover. The plastic chairs they had emptied started flying. The storm knocked down bamboo poles which were holding up the enclosed area. Rahul found himself facing empty chairs, much like Mamata had done at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi. Only in Rahul's case, the chairs were all upturned. When it rains, it pours, doesn't it?

The Calling Cuckoo
Mamata Banerjee did not take kindly to Rahul Gandhi's comment that there was no poriborton (change) in the state since the TMC came to power in the state. Without referring to him by name, the Bengal chief minister, who was campaigning in North Bengal, mocked the Congress leader and his remarks by calling him a "boshontor kokil" (the spring cuckoo), which fills the spring air with cries of "kuhu kuhu" but disappears at other times.

CPI-M's Laksman Seth, whose name has been associated with the excesses of the previous regime committed in Nandigram, has surprised everyone by suddenly praising Mamata Banerjee. "Buker pata achey…Mamata Banerjeer," ("Mamata has guts") he said, giving rise to speculations about his ulterior motives. Laksman Seth and his notorious activities – for which he is being tried and has served jail – has been one of TMC's targets of attack during the previous elections. But he has also found himself being punished and disciplined by his own party, which has all but placed a large burden of guilt on his tainted shoulders for the party's debacle in Bengal. Nor has the CPI-M given him a ticket to contest elections. Seth has recently been making public remarks against his own party. He has, for instance, publicly declared that he agreed with economist Amartya Sen's words that the CPI-M was a party of elitists. Though he has not been expelled yet, his comments in praise of Mamata Banerjee is being seen as a way of sending signal to Didi that he may be available. Though Seth has denied having any ulterior motive in praising Mamata, it would be interesting to how the TMC camp would respond. Will the bite the bait?

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Clamp On Cartoons
The graffiti war in Calcutta is heating up. As the city's walls get crammed with caustic barbs fired at each other by rival political parties, what is interesting is that unlike earlier days the cartoons of Mamata, which were the staple of the CPI-M campaign, is now almost nowhere to be found. "There is a fear that anyone painting a comical or satiric representation of her may meet the same fate as Ambikesh Mahapatra, (the professor who was beaten up and thrown into jail for circulating a cartoon of Mamata)," said a CPI-M party cadre on condition of anonymity. "Though what she did may not be acceptable in a democracy, the fact is that it had happened and it can happen again. No one wants to take that chance." So while a CPI-M graffiti makes fun of Mamata's national ambitions by drawing a large empty chair with the caption "I want to be PM, it does not carry a caricature of her, as it would most likely do in earlier times. Political observers also feel that much of the sting of the graffiti war has eroded after a ban was putting on it by the election commission during the last set of elections.

Word Play
One of the more clever and creative TMC campaign slogans came from Sreerampur, where lawyer and TMC MP, Kalyan Banerjee is contesting. It says, "Mamatamoyee Bangla…Kalyanmoyee Sreerampur". The two words, "mamata" and "kalyan" mean compassion and grace respectively. Punning on the two words and the names, the Bengali slogan means…Bengal is full of compassion and Sreerampur is full of grace.

Di-lemma circulating via SMS: "Kakey vote di?...Mo(di)? Na Didi? (Whom to vote for? Modi or Didi?)

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