West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016

Poll languor, Poila Boisakh mirth in Kolkata chromosome

Workers make Bengali calendars with images depicting deities at a workshop in Kolkata on Tuesday. Bengali New Year starts from April 14.  

Tamil Nadu is one-and-a-half times the size of West Bengal; yet it will go to the polls on a single day, on May 16, while in the eastern state, the elections are being conducted in six phases, spanning over a month.

That should give you an idea of how politically volatile West Bengal is, and you will expect the State capital, Kolkata, to be sizzling with election activity. But no.

The City of Joy is already looking forward to Poila Boisakh, the Bengali New Year, which falls mid-April. The Bengal Club, in fact, has already announced its festival lunch menu; and in its hallowed portals on Sunday evening, as West Indies clashed with England barely a few hundred metres away at the Eden Gardens, one could overhear conversations about cricket and Bharat Mata — but not elections.

This is one of the blandest elections Kolkata is witnessing, though one thought that the >Narada sting operation and the >collapse of a flyover in the city would raise decibel levels.

Though some of the local newspapers and TV channels are trying their best to whip up an uproar, aimed at Mamata Banerjee, the man on the street seems to be unperturbed and, surprisingly, indifferent.

Suman Paul was a picture of calm as he contemplated his next move on the chessboard under the Gariahat flyover in south Kolkata, where local people gather every evening to gossip, argue, drink tea — and play chess.

“Tell me,” Mr. Paul said without looking up, “what is so unusual about politicians taking bribes?” He was replying to my question about the Narada channel clips.

“It is no big deal in a country where we have to pay bribes to even get birth and death certificates,” he said.

“What about the >flyover collapse ?” I asked him. “Who do you think is to blame?”

“Bridges collapse even in China, in Japan. Such things happen,” Mr. Paul replied.

Why is a city so alive to politics being so subdued and indifferent at the time of elections? I put the question to cab drivers, who usually have a finger on the pulse of a city.

Mahadeo Pandey, who drove me to Kumartuli the day before the >flyover collapse , said: “If this government has not been good, it has not been bad either. It has done some good work, people are in no hurry for a change.”

Pintu Das, who drove me to Maheshtala the day after the flyover collapse, said, “The ruling party knows it will win, therefore it is quiet. The Opposition knows it will lose, therefore it is quiet. There is nothing more to it.”

Even pockets where emotions should be running high don’t appear to be in the grip of election fever. Such as Barabazar, where the under-construction flyover collapsed last Thursday. It came crashing on the intersection between Vivekananda Road and Radindra Sarani — a stone’s throw from Tagore’s birthplace — but in less than 48 hours, Shree Jagdamba Tea Company, which sits right on the intersection, was back in business.

“I was coming back from Lalbazar in a tram. Since the tram got stuck in traffic, I decided to walk to the shop and I walked under the flyover. Ten minutes later, it collapsed, in a matter of four to five seconds,” recalled its owner Kamal Sharma, in between playing a shopkeeper and a tea-taster — he had eight cups laid out in front of him.

“Are people not angry with the State government?” I asked him.

“There is bound to be some anger, and usually the head of the government is accountable in such cases,” he said, “but there are far too many people responsible for this accident. It would be unfair to blame the chief minister alone.”


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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 2:38:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/westbengal2016/Poll-languor-Poila-Boisakh-mirth-in-Kolkata-chromosome/article14222630.ece

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