Maverick Mamata no more. Didi 2.0 is a tough administrator
On 21 July, 23 years back, 13 Youth Congress workers in Bengal were killed after being shot by the police during Mamata Banerjee's Writers' Buildings gherao protest. This was when the Left Front still seemed invincible in West Bengal.
Since then, Mamata founded a new political party in 1998, defeated the behemoth CPM in 2011, but she has never missed observing martyrs' day on 21 July every year.
But after 2011, 21 July has become more of a celebration. In a surprising move after winning the election she decided to merge festivity with martyrs' day.
Tollywood filmstars perform, musicians (along with MLAs and MPs) sing, and most importantly, this is also the day when politicians from opposition parties flock to the TMC.
This Thursday was no different. She is in power for a second term and the show of might was represented as lakhs thronged Esplanade, and as usual, one CPM MLA from Gazole, Malda, and one Congress MLA from Bishnupur, Bankura joined TMC, apart from 14 municipal councillors from Purulia(2), Kharagpur (5) and North Dinajpur (7).
Kaliaganj municipality, in North Dinajpur, a citadel of former Congress cabinet minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, also goes to TMC as a result of this defection. Significantly, Deepa Dasmunshi, wife of Priyaranjan, had contested this assembly polls against Mamata Banerjee. This fact was highlighted by Mamata's nephew Abhishek Banerjee on Thursday.
Every year, before this day, the Opposition poses a few questions to her, and their supporters ridicule the celebration terming it as 'uncultured'.
But on Thursday everyone was silent, from the media to the opposition. Could the reason be her resounding victory a few months back? No. The answer resides in this new government, which is more adept at managing affairs. And her politics has changed leaving no scope for criticism so far.
After the assembly election results she has two political concerns. One is the alliance between the Congress and the CPM and the other is the rising power of the BJP.
Her first move was to put the Congress-CPM alliance in a sticky spot by naming Manas Bhunia, former West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) chief and veteran MLA, as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
Congress had decided to give the post to CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty, as a step toward bolstering the alliance further.
TMC queered the pitch and Bhunia fell for it. As of now, reports of back and forth text messages between WBPCC chief Adhir Chowdhury and Bhunia fill news pages, but the fact remains that Bhunia has accepted the post. Now we just need to wait and watch. Will Bhunia defect first or will the Congress suspend him?
Three weeks ago, Mamata held a review meeting for North 24 Parganas district, which borders Bangladesh. She categorically stated "Cow smuggling has to stop" and asked all officials to be more active in handling cattle smuggling as it is a serious law and order problem.
Significantly, this was the first time that she spoke out against cow smuggling. Action was also swift.
Samir Majumdar, a kingpin of cow smuggling was arrested a few days back. He has been a veteran in the business for 10 years and has successfully managed the Security personnel, Police and the Customs. One strategy was to get his sister, a TMC panchayat pradhan, to marry an officer from the security forces.
Last week, there was an alleged murder attempt on Minister for Food and Supplies, Jyotipriya Mallick, who is also the North 24 Parganas district observer for the TMC. This was allegedly the handiwork of cattle smugglers, according to him and the police. It seems, government's action has rattled cattle smugglers.
Mushrooming real estate syndicates, crumbling law and order, and involvement of politicians in private disputes were some problems which plagued Mamata's previous government.
Since the formation of the new government, a TMC councillor from Saltlake was arrested on charges of extortion, followed by 45 arrests throughout New Town and Rajarhat, havens of syndicates.
Last Sunday, in an operation spanning 24 hours across the state, 1,023 people were arrested and 7,972 were detained on various charges of law and order. Additionally, 150 people against whom there were no warrants were also apprehended along with 85 firearms, 781 bombs and 201 bullets, according to Anuj Sharma, ADG, Law and Order.
Another TMC councillor was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly abetting the suicide of a businessman named Bishwajit Roy in South 24 Parganas. Roy was called to a kangaroo court and ordered to pay monthly installments of Rs 5,000 to a person from Howrah, to whom he owed Rs 60,000.
Allegedly, Roy was threatened and harassed. Unable to take the humiliation he committed suicide and left a suicide note. The police was prompt enough to arrest the councillor the next day.
Such effective and strict administrative actions were missing in the previous government. It is clear that a bigger mandate has made Mamata much stronger to sort out challenges.
If this trend of 'making no mistakes' continues, she might be here for a really long haul.