India Insight

Bengal intellectuals queer pitch for communists

Amidst the stream of billboards, posters and party flags flooding Kolkata’s chaotic streets in the run-up to elections, a glazed hoarding featuring popular intellectuals of West Bengal is catching everyone’s eyes these days.

“Pariborton Chai” (We want change), reads the hoarding popping up at regular intervals, in opposition of the communists who have ruled the state uninterruptedly since 1977.

The hoardings are part of a campaign with a difference – It is not mounted by the opposition Trinamool Congress-Congress combine, but by a group of powerful intellectuals who have joined hands against the communists.

Battle lines were drawn by the intellectuals, who had patronized the Marxists for decades, after the government began seizing farmlands for industrialization and allegedly used repressive means to tame those opposing the policy.

The divide became official after the police firing of Nandigram on May 14, 2007 that killed 14 and triggered more violence, largely blamed on the communists.

Stars add glamour to Trinamool’s campaign in Bengal

The controversial seizure of land for industry by the ruling communists in West Bengal may be the biggest chink in their armour for the 2009 polls.

But the opposition Trinamool Congress is not leaving anything to chance in this general election — it’s also taking help from the stars.

Enter Tapas Paul. The archetypal Bengali film hero in the closing decades of the 20th century is already a lawmaker in the state assembly.

First, Second or Third (Front) – What’s the difference!

Much has been written about the imminent arrival in New Delhi of the Third Front, the joker in the Indian political pack that has talked itself up as a serious alternative to the two national parties in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The difference they tout is of being more inclusive, bringing into the public fold social groups neglected or oppressed by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Whether this claim, that some take rather very seriously, is sustainable is the moot question. The answer may be no, if the history of this rag-tag group that has emerged with near-decadal precision since 1967 is any guide.

Will West Bengal’s Muslims vote for the left?

Are the ruling communists in the stronghold state of West Bengal losing the confidence of its traditional Muslim voters, ahead of their most crucial electoral test this month?

For decades, Muslims have always felt safe in West Bengal, although they have been caught in an uncomfortable position elsewhere in the country after each bomb or militant attack.

West Bengal’s left boasted that Muslims, a little over 26 percent in the state of 80 million people, were free from discrimination and were living in harmony.

Hoping for an Oxford degree in India

Now that the proverbial Left monkey is off the government’s back, the country’s education system will be among the sectors on the radar of the administration in its push for reforms.

With more than half of the billion-plus population aged 25 or below and foreign players eager to have a share of the lucrative industry by setting up branches in India, the education sector can potentially bring in a huge amount of foreign investment.

school.jpgAnd for many students who would otherwise be squeezed out of the few elite colleges or would have to study abroad, opening up the system could make world-class education available to them without having to leave the country.

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