A visit by a chief minister to the Planning Commission to discuss issues of policy should normally be a common and garden event. The recent one by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was anything but that. Outside the Commission’s premises, she and her finance minister Amit Mitra were heckled and attacked by a group of Students Federation of India (SFI) and CPI(M) activists. They were demanding justice for the recent death of one of its members, 22-year-old Sudipta Gupta. Mr Mitra’s torn kurta was displayed by an agitated Trinamool chief as proof that the politics of West Bengal was in a downward spiral.
In the customary pattern of political revenge, Trinamool workers have ransacked and torched over a hundred CPI(M) district and zonal offices in West Bengal. Mamatadi, who once championed the slogan ‘Badla Noy, Badal Chai’ (not revenge, but change), thundered that 10 lakh Trinamool supporters could arrive in Delhi to counter the 20 hooligans who attacked her and Mr Mitra. It was hardly the right statement for a chief minister to make, but then such irresponsible and vengeful utterances have become the norm in Bengal politics. To add to an already incendiary situation, crude bombs were thrown at former CPI(M) minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah’s vehicle. Earlier in January, Trinamool supporters had mercilessly attacked Mr Mollah in his car, leaving him unconscious. This had prompted West Bengal governor MK Narayanan to speak of a rising ‘goondaism’ in the state. As vandals now turn even Kolkata’s historic Presidency College into a battleground, Mr Narayanan’s views only gather more significance.
It was hoped that Ms Banerjee’s style of functioning would be a departure from the Left’s politics of permanent protest. But here we have a situation in which disruption of public life and destruction of public property seems to have official sanction. Given the volatility of the situation, Ms Banerjee should have urged restraint on the part of Trinamool workers. While there is no doubt that the attack on Ms Banerjee was reprehensible, there was also no call for her to go back to Bengal cancelling appointments on the grounds that Delhi is not safe. The Trinamool seems to be devoting all its energies to fighting political battles with the Left even though the latter has been vanquished electorally. Instead of portraying a picture of seeming lawlessness, the party should now begin delivering the goods. No doubt, it is being wooed by both main political formations as general elections draw near, but this does not mean that it abdicates from its responsibilities, a primary one being ensuring law and order.