Mamta Banerjee or our very own Kejriwal of the East has once again proved why she is giving a tough fight to our Delhi CM in competing for the post of the most whimsical and temperamental CM. Both have now begun to outsmart each other in pulling off ludicrous gimmicks, staging melodrama pandering to mob sentiments and conjuring up theories of how every political opponent is hatching a conspiracy to dismantle their political position.
Mamta Banerjee reminds me of the capricious emperor Nero, compulsively engaging most of her public time in naming places, organizing fairs and awarding laurels to players-actors-performers (only to use them later to reap political gains during her campaigns) with no well-meaning economic objective in mind while the state continues to reel under its biggest socio-economic crisis where law and order is in dire straits, industrial progress has hit rock bottom and state coffers are near depletion.
Undoubtedly, three and half decades of Left rule had left Bengal wanting in all spheres of economic and social progress, but when Bengal voted for a change with a massive mandate, Bengalis aspired for change. Change there has been, ironically, regressive.
The ‘logic’ behind Bengal, Bangla and Bangal
In one of her latest stunts, Mamta Banerjee has proposed to rechristen present West Bengal to Bengal in English, Bangla in Bengali and Bangal in Hindi, making sure that each of the three languages have their customized flavour of pronouncing erstwhile “West Bengal”.
Rumour mills say that when Mamta Banerjee was one of the last speakers to be invited to speak at the Inter-State Council meeting due to West Bengal falling behind on account of the alphabetical ordering of states, she was infuriated. With little oratorical mettle and no significant achievements to stake claim to, I have no reason to doubt the preordained sequence of speakers, but who in his sane mind could dare voice this in front of Didi?
And now in an asinine move, the state cabinet has gone ahead and approved her insane Tughlaqi wish and this is now pending with the Centre for constitutional amendment and enactment. But this is not the first time, when she has propounded an idea that will make ones jaw drop. Immediately after taking over, she set on a mission of renaming streets, metro stations, universities, institutions and just when you thought that the feverish prowl was over, the truth dawned.
The Gift of Bengal, Bangla and Bangal – Because real issues can wait
Mamta Banerjee now wanted to rename the state. In her inability to solve critical issues plaguing the state, she adopted the subtle yet populist move of invoking Bengali pride through symbols and names. So now West Bengal has three names. It reminds me of the Mumbai local railway announcements, where the name of stations (mind you, a proper noun) sounds different when spoken in three languages, but in a jam packed railway platform, with the nausea, smell of sweat and stamping feet, that’s the only thing left for one’s amusement.
If we flip the pages of a not so old history, we would observe that one of the first things she did after coming to power for the first time was renaming a key metro station after Bengal’s favourite matinee hero, Uttam Kumar, followed by rechristening of certain stations after noted freedom fighters which ironically until date lack absolutely basic amenities like a public toilet.
Bengal, Bangla and Bangal are latest chapter in Didi’s fascination with renaming
The Kolkata metro has two stations named after Subhash Chandra Bose, because public appeasement is of course numero uno, while rationality can go and take a hike. She even baptized the erstwhile Technology University of the State after Moulana Abul Kalam Azad. Not sure whether by doing this, we paid any homage to the great man but I sure know frantic students who while applying for masters at foreign/national universities had to field difficult questions on why they had mark sheets from two different universities when they were pursuing a single course.
But the chances of Didi foreseeing such perils is very slim, with her educational credentials and her myopic vision of Bengal to blame . As if the renaming mission was not causing enough harm to the state exchequer, she took up the task of beautifying Kolkata by putting trident electrical poles across the length and breadth of the city.
However, pretty soon the ulterior motive of siphoning off tax payers funds under the garb of city’s makeover was unmasked. She even built a clock tower or a miniature BigBen right in the middle of the city, to make Kolkata look like London. But Didi, in all honesty, I would like to tell you – that’s where the similarity between Kolkata and London ends.
I would like to veer the discourse to ask certain uncomfortable questions. Who wants to think about social welfare and improving the appalling state of public healthcare and infrastructure, when earning brownie points is as easy as tickling the emotional chords of a naïve and maudlin crowd by invoking vague feelings of Bengali pride? Why take up the arduous task of improving the standard of living of people when your vote bank is kept intact by indulging in minority appeasement and undertaking populist projects which cause little or no change to the routine life of the daily wage earner, the middle class, and the indebted farmer
In her mad frenzy, Mamta Banerjee is leading the state into utter turmoil and degeneration. Apart from hosting a yearly summit ironically named as Bengal Leads which achieves nothing except draining the state’s finances further, Bengal/Bangla/Bangal is not leading on any count.
Examples are galore in our country where governments and political parties have used such mob appeasing measures to gain political mileage and hence this move by Mamta Banerjee is not novel. But all this leaves me despairing.
I want to ask Mamta Banerjee, what difference does it make whether we call ourselves West Bengal or Bangla or Bangal or Bengal?
We still dot the lowest rungs of economic and social indices, our youth haplessly migrate in search of employment opportunities outside, and we are still grappling with the scars of the nefarious Left rule. Whatever flavor of Bengal I might choose to use while addressing it, my Bengali pride is hurt, battered and bruised.
But you have turned a deaf ear Didi. Are you willing to wake up and smell the coffee?