Bengalis love to celebrate their language, their culture, and mostly, their politics. From CPI's (Communist Party of India) 34 year of dominance to Mamta Banerjee's meteoric rise, the political spectrum of Kolkata has seen many ups and downs. It won't be wrong to say that the political arena of Kolkata is being dominated mostly by two parties, CPI (M) and Trinamool Congress (TMC), whereas national parties like the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) and Congress are still trying to get a footing in the state.

It was in the year 1977 when the Left Front won the assembly elections and ruled the state for 34 continuous years, creating a record for the longest period of governance. Late Jyoti Basu remained the Chief Minister of the state for more than 23 years (1977-2000), which made him the longest serving CM in the history of Indian politics. After his resignation, due to age related issues, the rein was handed over to Buddhadev Bhattacharya who continued in office till 13 May, 2011.

In the year 2011, the TMC-Congress alliance won the state election and Mamata Banerjee became the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal. After 34 years of dominance, CPI was shown the door by the voters. Mamata rose to prominence and become the first choice of the people.
While the CPI (M) was ousted from the state, Bengal was facing serious challenges from various quarters. Industries started leaving the state, including the mighty TATA and few others, farm growth came down drastically, and Bengal's poor became worse off than those in most other states. In 2007, the National Sample Survey (NSS) found that nearly 11 percent of families in Bengal faced starvation throughout the year, the highest in India.

Although, the main problem of Bengal came in the open when the Left tried to capture land from the poor farmers which sparked violence in Singur and Nandigram. The imposition of Section 144 made the situation even worse. The Singur incident changed the entire course of Bengal politics and gave Mamata the much needed political mileage.

Singur wasn't the only setback for the Left. The state government was also forced to shelve plans for a chemical hub in Nandigram which claimed lives of dozens of villagers who died during protests.

Mamata Banerjee’s parting away from the BJP and joining hands with the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) paid off as well. The results of the panchayat and zila parishad elections of May 2008 showed that people in the rural areas had started rejecting the Left Front, especially the CPM. The Mamata magic in Nandigram made the Trinamool popular in Gram Bangla (rural Bengal).
Left's most potent political weapon 'Elaka Dhokhol' (territorial control) strategy proved to be catastrophic as more than 500 people lost their lives in territorial battles.

These incidents gave rival party the ammunition to target the Left government and TMC didn’t leave any stone unturned to launch a scathing attack on the Communist party. The unsparing attack of Mamata on the government culminated into a landslide victory of her party in the assembly elections in 2011.  Out of 294 seats, the All India Trinamool Congress won 184 seats whereas Communist Party of India (CPI) won 2 seats, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) won 40.

This year, Mamata Banerjee too has completed her tenure in the office and many believe that both TMC and Left are the birds of the same feather. During her poll campaign Mamata promised development, liberation from Left violence, jobs, growth, and so on. And one slogan that went viral was, “Badli chai, badla noy.” In other words, “We want change, not revenge.” But as time progressed, the tall promises of Mamata Banerjee evaporated as well.

A total of 23 cases of disturbances were recorded in the year 2012 which claimed many lives. In May 2015, riots in Nadia district claimed 4 lives and forced hundreds to flee. In January 2016, a protest rally called by religious organizations degenerated into large scale violence. Mobs of rioters destroyed homes, shops, molested women and challenged the police and state machinery.

The crime against women during Mamata raj escalated as well. According to the 2014 report of National Crime Records Bureau, West Bengal recorded the second largest number of crimes against women in the country. Instances like Kamdhuni gang rape, Park Street gang rape, and others have added black spots to Mamta Banerjee's tenure. The latest being the collapse of an under construction flyover in Central Kolkata the blame game for which is still going on.

Now, as the people of Bengal have sealed the fate of the political parties in the Assembly Election 2016, it would be interesting to see which party gets the mandate.

Will TMC be able to continue their winning run, or the CPI-Congress alliance will blast the winning crackers, or will the BJP emerge as the dark horse.

Wait till May 19th for the answer.

Victor Dasgupta/JPN

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