Elections come and go, political parties fight it out with blood and sweat and finally the voice of the people reigns supreme. West Bengal, which had been under the rule of the Communists for over three decades, had a bloody tradition of elections, where candidates against the ruling party were threatened, intimated, their family members kidnapped, which in most cases led to the huge victory margins of the Left Front in elections. Things changed a lot post 2006, with S.Y. Qureshi as the Chief Election Commissioner, who revolutionised the process of polling, leading to a true reflection of people’s mandate.
In 2011, riding high on the anti-Left mood in the state, and the credibility established as a resolute fighter who cares for people, Mamata Banerjee unseated the Left from power and became the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Some bad decisions and actions and manufactured outrage in TV studios outside Bengal almost led people to believe that people of Bengal want this government out at the earliest instant. It would be naive to say that the current regime of Bengal has performed outstandingly. It would also be foolish to assume that this government would convert Bengal into an “oasis of peace” (remember Bantala rape?) within 2 years of being in power. But has the eletorate in Bengal given up hope on the current regime? If a series of elections in the past 2 years have to be believed, it definitely has not; the latest bypoll for Howrah Lok Sabha seat is a good example in this regard.
The first election in Bengal ever since Trinamool broke away from the UPA, the Howrah bypoll was touted as the “litmus test” for Mamata Banerjee. In the past two elections in Howrah, Congress and TMC fought together, leading to a huge loss in votes for the CPM, so much so that in 2011 Bidhan Sabha polls, Left did not have a single MLA from this Lok Sabha seat.
In 2011, while the % of votes polled by the alliance was 54%, Left managed a meager 37%. Even BJP, which has a hold in pockets of Howrah, managed to garner 5% of total votes polled. This time, TMC and Congress fought separately and received 44% and 10% votes respectively while CPM increased its tally to 41%. The BJP did not take part in the contest. If one goes through the history of polling in Howrah, one would see undivided Congress or Congress without TMC had an average vote share of 15% in Howrah. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Congress lost 4% of its share. However, the total vote share of TMC+Cong remains static at 54%. So how did CPM raise its vote%? Clearly the vote-bank of BJP (5%) must have gone that way.
Let us move back in time a little. Last year, after Trinamool pulled out of UPA, Jangipur constituency went to polls. Pranab Mukherjee’s son contested in the election. In 2009, when the current President of India was a joint candidate of TMC-Congress, he won against Left by a margin of 1,28,149 votes. However, in the bypoll TMC did not field a candidate as a mark of respect for Pranab Da. It was a two-way fight and his son managed to scrape through by a margin of 2,500 votes. Compare this to the vote margin in Howrah in 2009 and 2013. Despite an alliance in 2009, late Ambica Banerjee won by a margin of 37,000 votes, while Prasun Banerjee managed to defeat his rival by 27,000 votes; this despite a three-way contest and break-up of TMC and Congress. Does this not prove that TMC’s strength in Bengal is on a surge while Congress is facing a rout?
For the cynics, i would provide another example. Last year 6 municipalities had gone to polls. Trinamool, Congress and Left fought separately and won 4, 1 and 1 municipality respectively. In 2007, the result was TMC 1, Congress 2, Left 3. Clearly, another indication that people’s mandate was in favour of the current government of West Bengal. Panchayat polls later this year and municipal elections in 2015 would give a better picture of the voice of the people. As of now, i am contended to assume (not without logic) that the hope that people had placed on Poriborton, has not thinned yet.
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The title of this post might surprise some, while come across as unsurprising to many, but standing at the crossroads of another year end, there is no denying the fact that India needs more than just a figurative head. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has failed to inspire citizens with leadership and has reduced the post of executive head of the nation to ceremonial face which appears on hoardings and government advertisements.
Question naturally arises who should lead the government then? Which politician in current Indian political situation possesses the caliber to lead India towards prosperity? Is it India’s “crown Prince” Rahul Gandhi? Or Madam Sonia Gandhi? Or someone else?
Rahul Gandhi is too immature to take up the mantle as grave as the Prime Ministerial berth. He could, rather, make his way up starting with running a state (eg U.P.). That could well be an apprenticeship which can mold him for future responsibilities.
His mother and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance is also better kept away from the PM’s office. Although it is an open secret that calls the shots in matters of national policy, but her ascent to the “chair” will spell trouble for the nation. The Party and The Government better be kept separate institutions and she can look after the party affairs.
India’s hunt for a Prime Minister ends with a very senior parliamentarian and also a senior minister of the present government. Pranab Mukherjee, in all fairness is the acting Prime Minister of UPA 2.
According to this article published in The Times Of India, Pranab Mukherjee is part of 34 Group of Ministers (GoM) heading 15 of them. He was most recently made head of the Joint Drafting Committee of the Lokpal Bill. Pranab Mukherjee is the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. On more than one occasions, this senior parliamentarian has emerged as the crisis manager for the UPA. His equations with various political outfits (across the colour spectrum) is known to be relatively better than his party colleagues. He has the distinction of holding ministries ranging from Defence to Finance, External Affairs, Revenue, Shipping, Transport, Communication, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industry.
Rumours say, Pranab Mukherjee was a strong contender for the Prime Ministerial berth in the early 1980s. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, a section of the Congress projected him as the Prime Minister in waiting. But given its sycophantic nature, the Congress fell back to the first family of Indian politics. The altercations were such that Pranab Mukherjee was forced to quit the party he had served for decades. Although he returned back to the fold of Congress soon, the “mistrust” seems yet to be healed.
Coronating Manmohan Singh to the high chair in 2004 was a political masterstroke by Sonia Gandhi in the wake of massive protests by BJP. But repeating the same in 2009 looks like an unpardonable mistake. Although Mr Singh is learning his lessons in politics, can India afford to bear the brunt of his tuition? Is it not more judicious to hand over the reigns to someone who is already in charge? After all that can boost the party’s electoral fortunes in 2014!
Unless history seeks to repeat itself, opportunity knocks at Congress’s door to undo the sin it committed in 1984. Pranab Mukherjee, with his political experience and leadership skills, can take India to echelons of glory.