Scenes from An Election


If, like me, you have sat through hours of Bengali marriage videos of others (mostly uncles and aunts), you would be more than aware of the song that always plays in the background: “Laaje ranga holo kone bou go, Aaj mala bodol hobe e raate” (The new wife has gone red with shyness, Tonight the garlands will be exchanged). And if there is any picture for which that song is appropriate, it is this. Politics, they say, make strange bedfellows, and stranger still, is when they have pictures taken like the one above. The alliance between Congress and the CPM is one that is at the same time bizzarre, given their history in Bengal politics, as well as irrelevant, given that Mamata Banerjee will win. If there is any tragedy here it is that of Buddhadeb, arguably the best Chief Minister of Bengal after Bidhan Roy, being brought out of his political crypt and being made to “marry”, like some Kuleen Brahmin senile of a century ago, a man-child, perennially in his political training pants.


For Bengali men of our generation, the second greatest Ganguly was Rupa Ganguly. (And I am not considering Kishore Kumar here) The rest of India may know her as the lady who played Draupadi in the original Mahabharata TV series or walked away after having the lie-detector buzz on her in “Sach Ka Samna” or starred in some T-series produced movies, but we have always seen her as God’s attempt to compensate us for allowing thirty-five years of CPM rule. Originally from CPM, she has now, like virtually everything in the state, been flipped, and is now BJP’s new face, and thank God for that, because we have had enough of poor man’s Kumar Sanu aka Babul Supriyo being the sole celebrity of the party. But to see her like this, breathing fire and brimstone, a far cry from “Amare dhoro kyan kolosh dhoro” from Padma Nadeer Majhi and Antarmahal, is sadly discordant, like Virat Kohli reciting a Tagore poem. A new Didi might be in the making here, because this was Didi twenty years ago, and the possibility fills me with dread.


Like the Australian cricket team of the 2000s, Didi will win, the only question is by how much. And she will do it despite “conshpeeracies” and “popaganda” and “bhandata” by Maoists, communal forces, those who claim to be raped (as she had declared the Park Street rape as a “sajano ghotona” [a set-up]), laws of Physics, and ABP. Because she has Ma Sharada on her side, and the moral highground of secularism. And as shown in the picture, even the high priests of secularism are awestruck, in a “Bhala uski kameez meri kameez se secular kaise”, crowding around her like scientists around a rare ore discovered from the bowels of the earth. If there is any tragedy here, it is that the quantum of cash used to *allegedly* bribe TMC party bigwigs (of course it is not true, it is a conspiracy by video technology) in the Narada sting, a measly five lacs, speaking volumes of the amount of money that is considered significant in Bengal. In Andhra or Maharashtra or Gujarat, even the guard at the door won’t stand back for five lacs.

For me though, amidst the inevitability of a Bengal election, the most interesting thing was the schism of the Bengali Buddhhijibis. Once united behind Didi against Nandiram, the rainbow coalition has split into two, in a kind of Marvel Civil War way–those who are satisfied with what has been handed out to them and those that are not. One went to meet the Chief Election Commissioner to protest against TMC’s strong-arm and then immediately, TMC mobilized another bunch to go to the CEC and pooh-pooh the other bunch, with Abhirup Sarkar, loyal FAN to the government, actually saying that “the kind of violence we have seen in the elections so far is really like school kids having a fight”.

From TOI

A three-and-a-half-year-old child has emerged as the face of political violence that blights Bengal. Her arms and legs bruised, she sobbed: “They came and beat me with lathis (Ora amakey lathi diye merechhe).The toddler, who has not yet started pre-school, represents all that’s wrong with Bengal’s politics, where many politicians -irrespective of their party colour -use violence and intimidation, instead of ideas and ideology, as the route to office.

The child’s family was targeted apparently because her maternal grandfather is a polling agent for CPM candidate Nirjharini Chakraborty, who is challenging TMC heavyweight Mukul Roy’s son Subhranshu. On Sunday evening, with only hours for voting, alleged TMC goons stormed into Barindra Lane of Halisahar -a traditional CPM base -to terrorise residents. Six of them barged into the child’s house and started swinging their lathis.

The child’s mother protested. The goons started beating her up without caring that she was cradling the baby. The child clung to her mother and was injured. “The goons didn’t for a moment bother to think that the child could get hurt. They just went on the rampage,” said Debasree. On the way out, the goons beat up her 16-year-old son and father as well


Exactly. School kids having a fight.


And finally this. From the lady with the second most famous helicopter shot. But good one though. There is nothing that Bengalis get more passionate about than saving fish, so that they can land up on their plates cooked with mustard. But not even this is going to save Bengal for more years, and most likely more decades, of “poriborton”.

Weep, my beloved state, weep.


14 thoughts on “Scenes from An Election

  1. But to see her like this, breathing fire and brimstone, a far cry from “Amare dhoro kyan kolosh dhoro” from Padma Nadeer Majhi and Antarmahal, is sadly discordant, like Virat Kohli reciting a Tagore poem. — epic !

  2. Awesome. I wanted to do a post on that epic picture of Buddho babu and Chhoto babu. But you’ve nailed it 😅

  3. Nothing symbolizes the power of infantile hope over dour reality than the man-child’s indefatigable pursuit of the elusive political career.

  4. If you see the Fb pages of bengal politicians, you wont find much comment / criticism !!!!

    Are people scared /fed up / disillusioned ?! There are lakhs of IT engineers…from bengal who remain online long hours !

  5. SAYAN BANDYOPADHYAY May 6, 2016 — 12:19 pm

    I have something to say here (I am a Kolkatan/Calcuttan and have been living in Kolkata from 1985 till date), and what I am saying might be a surprise to many, but this is devoid of any political colour. Things here are not that bad as the perception is. Yes, they could have been much better, and there are lots of areas that need immediate attention. However, if one watches English media/speaks to the urban elite, it would appear this is the worst possible government ever to have ruled Bengal. Breaking news guys: it is not! We have seen much worse, trust me. I know of many current bureaucrats and some ministers who are trying to do an honest job, I mean come on, how can everything and everybody be bad?? How are we surviving then? I, for one, have seen improvements in the state of infrastructure, tourism, public health, traffic management, electricity (the traffic management during Durga puja should be a national case study!), yes, we are still far away from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, a long way to go! There have been incidents, like those mentioned in the article, which I don’t approve of, there needs to be more prudence in public pronouncements, lot of loose ends to be tied up, but I refuse to see only negatives! P.S.: Better PR work would certainly help the current government, for perception is more powerful than facts, some times!

    1. Argumentative Indian May 18, 2016 — 1:49 pm

      How’s the economy, specifically, how’s the job market? My friends paint a pretty scary picture.

      I also think Indians in general, are looking for significantly improved governance rather than not being the worst government ever type of performance and Bengalis are no exception to this national desire for good governance.

      Comparison with Mah, TN and Gujarat or rather using them as a benchmark is dicey. WB is much better off in terms of low or NIL farmer suicides.

      I think law and order and the hijacking of the police force by the Left Front earlier and the TMC now is a massive no go. That kind of puts a lot of fear into the minds of investors and even middle class people who want to create private wealth…

      1. Sayan Bandyopadhyay June 14, 2016 — 9:55 am

        Agree with some of your points here, jobs are still an issue, though registering a marginal improvement, nothing great to be honest. And as I said, there are still a number of areas which need improvement, no doubts. Governance is an issue, so is politicization of everything in view. However, my point is there are areas which I have mentioned which have seen an improvement, I have seen intent in many areas, and thus am cautiously optimistic. More than that, it seems almost fashionable at times for urban folk to sneer derisively towards those with a rustic countenance- those who cant speak English as well as us, or who aren’t so-called sophisticated- I have a problem with that!

  6. I laughed at the images and then paused for a while. I laughed again, this time at our misfortune. What a ‘waste’!

  7. Thanda thanda cool cool ebar ghore ghore trinofool…
    Like you said weep my beloved state, weep.

  8. Greatbong – how about a post on the election results? I am interested in knowing why the TMC won inspite of so many instances of mismanagement/ involvement in terror related cases and why there was no counter consolidation of majority votes (as happened in Assam). TIA.

  9. The below post (in Bengali, I’m afraid, apologies to non Bengalis), written long before the elections by a Bangalore techie, provides the answer

    1. Gaurav – how about you doing an English translation? Just a basic one covering the main points would suffice until greatbong does an in-depth post. Thanks in advance.

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