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.

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.

Singur: It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

As the deadlock over Singur and the Tata Nano plant rumbles on, much of the debate seems to be missing the point.

SingurThis week, Mukesh Ambani said a “fear psychosis is being created to slow down certain projects of national importance” and said industry should be encouraged to make such large investments.

But in the words of the old song by Ella Fitzgerald (and more recently Bananarama) “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”.

Do you have to be mad to fight corruption in India?

The sad story of Kallol Sur caught my eye over the weekend, a local official who apparently hanged himself after blowing the whistle on corruption in India’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. A labourer works under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to build a dirt road at Sheikhpur in India’s poorest state of Bihar January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

According to The Sunday Express , Sur, a block development officer — a local bureaucrat — in the eastern state of West Bengal, complained of “immense political pressure” after exposing graft in the scheme.

Sur had apparently first uncovered corruption by officials from the ruling Communist Party (Marxist), and then by others from the opposition Trinamool Congress.