KOLKATA: Anger among the masses in West Bengal against Left Front’s rule is more than the discontent during the days of the Emergency in the 1970s, says a senior Trinamool Congress leader, Mr Subrata Mukherjee adding that Ms Mamata Banerjee is the only alternative to break the three-decade-old Communist reign here.
Mr Subrata Mukherjee, a key West Bengal Minister during the Emergency days,
said: “People of Bengal are furious at the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist). The anger is much more than the resentment against the Congress during the days of the Emergency.”
In and out of the Trinamool over the past few years, Mr Mukherjee was state information and cultural affairs minister during 1972-77 in then chief minister Siddhartha Sankar Ray’s cabinet.
Then prime minister Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency on June 25, 1975.
It was lifted on March 21, 1977. Elections and civil liberties were suspended. Gandhi and the Congress lost power in the 1977 elections after an anti-Emergency backlash.
Mr Mukherjee now rates Ms Mamata Banerjee as the only alternative to the CPI-M-led Left Front that has ruled West Bengal uninterruptedly since 1977.
“We had created history during the Congress regime in Bengal. We had stopped the Naxalites (Maoists). We had saved not only Bengal but the whole of India,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“However, it was the Emergency from 1975 to 1977 that caused the defeat of the Congress at both the state and national levels. People didn’t accept the Emergency.”
The Ray regime dealt with the Maoists with an iron hand and gradually crushed it amid widespread allegations of police excesses and killings in fake gun battles.
“The law and order scenario was bad then. But we had brought it under control. However, now it has become worse as the state itself is sponsoring terror and violence,” Mr Mukherjee said when asked to compare law and order during 1972-77 with the current scenario.
Mr Mukherjee, a product of the turbulent student politics of the 1960s and mentored by Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, was the youngest member of the Ray cabinet. He left the Congress in 1999 to join the Trinamool Congress and became Mayor of Kolkata after Trinamool won the civic polls in 2000.
But the politician parted ways with Trinamool during the 2005 civic polls and rejoined the Congress. He returned to the Trinamool fold before last year’s 2010 civic polls, saying he cannot fight the Marxists by staying in the Congress.
When asked whether he still shared the same view about the state Congress, the 58-year-old politician retorted: “Yes, I still feel the same. “They have failed to fight the CPI-M. Mamata Banerjee is the only anti-CPI-M voice in the state. She is the only alternative and only substitute to the Left Front.”
The Trinamool and the Congress, along with the smaller Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI-C), joined hands before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and bagged 26 of the state’s 42 seats, dealing a major blow to the Left Front’s over three decades’ rule.
However, the Trinamool and the Congress failed to come together in last year’s civic polls.
Mr Mukherjee defined Trinamool’s journey from a breakaway faction of the state Congress to a sniffing distance from power as ‘challenging’ and gave full credit to Banerjee for building the party as the only alternative force. “Mamata’s honesty and dedication have paved the way. She has created her own path,” said Mr Mukherjee, whose stint as city mayor from 2000-2005 earned him widespread praise.
When asked how welcome is he in the party as his detractors say that he left Trinamool during bad times, he said: “No, I have always stood by the Congress-Trinamool alliance. In 2005 I left Trinamool, but I was in favour of an alliance. In 2010 also I left the Congress for the same reason.”
However, the state Congress chief, Mr Manas Bhuniya recently criticised Mr Mukherjee, saying despite having been made in-charge of alliance talks with Trinamool last year, he had fled from the battlefield days before the city polls.
“Manas is not a state leader material, he is a local worker. I was in favour of an alliance and wanted to fight the CPI-M honestly,” Mr Mukherjee shot back.