Mamata Banerjee was being hailed as ‘Aparajito’ (The Unvanquished) who had no ‘Pratidwandi’ (Rival) — both titles of Ray movies.
People in Kolkata were on Sunday borrowing from the words of revered filmmaker Satyajit Ray — who would have turned 100 on this day — to celebrate the stunning victory of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the West Bengal Assembly elections. By the evening, many of the city’s roads saw bike processions and people gathered on the streets, greeting each other with “Joy Bangla!”
While a win for the sitting Chief Minister was not entirely unexpected — most exit polls had given her a narrow edge over the BJP — not many had imagined her handing such a powerful blow to her opponents, represented by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
By Sunday afternoon, as the outcome of the bitterly-contested elections became clearer, Ms. Banerjee was being hailed as ‘Aparajito’ (The Unvanquished) who had no ‘Pratidwandi’ (Rival) — both titles of Ray movies. Some hailed the people of West Bengal as the “Nayak” (Hero). Mr. Modi, on the other hand, was being depicted by many as ‘Ganashatru’ (Public Enemy).
Many in West Bengal, doctors included, had not taken kindly to the fact that elections were to be held in the State in eight phases; they saw the long-drawn process as a red-carpet welcome to COVID-19. Then came a time when the prolonged campaign became acrimonious with Mr. Modi’s repeated “Didi-o-didi” taunts aimed at Ms. Banerjee; but what really turned the general sentiment against the Prime Minister was when he continued to address massive public meetings in West Bengal even when the second wave of COVID-19 had started sweeping through the country.
For those who resented his frequent appearances in the State in the face of the pandemic, the results appeared to have a cathartic effect. “What makes me happy is not who won, but who lost. The result is reassuring, that we won’t hold our doors open for fascists,” said Tapatrisha Das, a former journalist.
For people like her, the fact that the results came on May 2 — the centenary of Ray, one of Bengal’s biggest icons — is an added bonus. Business owner Anuradha Mitra spent a better part of the day sharing with friends a depiction from the final scene of Ray’s film Hirak Rajar Deshe, showing subjects pull down the statue of their evil king with the cry: “Dori dhore maaro taan, raja hobe khan khan” — Pull the rope and the king will be in pieces.
“What better day to remember this punch line from Ray’s masterly creation. The idea of Bengal remains unity in unity. Mr. Modi, on the other hand, is more concerned about how people perceive him and how his cult could be furthered. Hope the idea of India resurrects and this becomes the beginning of the end,” Ms. Mitra said.
Said Sudeshna Chakraborti, a retired teacher: “Bigotry has definitely affected the educated middle-class in Bengal, at least the ones who are regular on social media, but those who struggle for their daily bread are not taken in by such diversionary tactics. With every government machinery in their favour, the two leaders (Mr. Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah) played ducks and drakes with Bengal’s health, resulting in the spurt in new COVID-19 cases. Who is answerable to the afflicted families?”
Her husband Ranesh added sagaciously, “Bengal has, once again, become the lighthouse for the rest of the country. But the most important lesson for the winners will be to remember that there is no room for complacency.”
“There was a perception that identity politics — Hindu-Muslim, outsider-insider, etc. — was working but in real it failed,” said Sritama Chaudhuri, an associate professor of sociology in a Kolkata college. “Ultimately the Bengali sentiment, the socialist inclination of the Bengalis and the image of Mamata Banerjee worked. It is a big win for the common man.”
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