Bengal’s new rule of law: “Didi Bolcheesh” (Whatever Didi says)
Sadly that is the truth of the Bengal of today, where Mamata Bannerjee – the first person to have broken the stranglehold of the Communists – has brought the state to.
Aamra ekhon-o boli ni kon kagoj porte hobe, kintu agami dine kintu setao bole debo. (Till now, we haven’t told which newspapers must be read, but in the future, we will do that as well.) – West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, speaking on March 29 in defense of her government’s decision to bar all but 13 newspapers from more than 2,400 government-approved libraries across the state.
“Kunal Ghosh, associate editor of Sambad Protidin, a Bengali newspaper, Nadimul Haque, owner of the Urdu newspaper Akbar-e-Mashrique and Vivek Gupta, director of Sanmarg, a Hindi daily, have been nominated to theRajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, on Trinamool Congress tickets.”– Indian Express, March 18
Ms. Banerjee seems to have adopted a divide-and-rule strategy when it comes to managing her public image, using hostility on one hand and appeasement on the other to counter a recent flood of bad press. The combination of banning some of the state’s most widely-read newspapers from libraries, while naming journalists from favored papers to cushy political spots seems designed to improve her public image.
On Thursday, in perhaps her most iron-fisted attempt to date to take control of her public image, she even had a Jadavpur University professor of chemistry, Ambikesh Mahapatra, and his neighbor, Subrata Sengupta, arrested for making and circulating a mild-mannered cartoon of the spat between Ms. Banerjee and the former railway minister, Dinesh Trivedi.
Ms. Banerjee’s public relations strategy has turned the urban, intellectual, well-educated voters who once supported her against her. And the minister’s problems may go far beyond the reaches of a public relations exercise, according to interviews with analysts, commentators, bureaucrats and legislators within her own Trinamool Congress Party.
They paint a picture of a chief minister for whom the very qualities that won her the hard-fought state election, including a single-minded sense of purpose and indomitable fighting spirit, are becoming liabilities as she tries to govern. If the chief minister continues on this path, they say, her party could crumble, making it easier for the Communist Party of India, Marxist — which held West Bengal for decades — to make a return.