I saw two rallies on 30 January. One rally was held on 30 January, 2013 at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna, in which Anna Hazare placed before the country his position and feelings towards a change in the system. Approximately one lakh seventy five thousand people had come for that rally and the expenses for that rally were approximately Rs. seven lakh. The second rally I saw was on 30 January, 2014 at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata. There were about 20 lakh people within the Parade Ground, 10 lakh people near and around the Parade Ground, and crowds of around 3 lakh to 4 lakh people were on the roads, heading towards the Parade Ground, but milling around because they couldn’t find a way to move ahead. Both these rallies were of two Jan Nayaks (people’s leaders) and these rallies conveyed how people are floundering with their problems.
The Kolkata rally is the biggest rally in the political history of the last 40 years. Mamata Banerjee had an inkling that about 15 lakh people would come, but that almost 30-35 lakh people will come, nobody in Kolkata had estimated or guessed. The entire Brigade Parade Ground was packed with people, slogans were raised. People had started coming to Kolkata 24 hours before the rally. And which people? People who had come from every corner of West Bengal. There was no part from where people had not come for the rally. The rally was a totally people-based rally. People had brought with them snacks to eat. People came in buses, came in trains, came on foot. They came singing, they came dancing. Seeing such a scene was so unique – how the public comes and stands and how they raise slogans – not much of this can be described by words. Perhaps some people may not like my description. It may seem to them that it is exaggerated, but let me tell those people that scenes like this can only be seen to be felt, they cannot be described in words.
The Kolkata rally was such a big rally that it could not be covered in the camera’s focus. It was not possible to take in the whole extent of the rally in a single photograph. Television cameras were proving to be incapable of gauging the vastness of this rally. Even then they tried and West Bengal channels showed this rally on TV. Perhaps the channels had thought that the rally would not be so large. Therefore there were only a few cameras there mounted on cranes. But the cameras proved to be incapable of reading the faces of the people, gauging their enthusiasm and capturing the magnitude of the rally. 20-30 lakh people coming to Mamata Banerjee’s rally is important because she does not have any cadres, whereas the Leftist parties, who ruled for 20-30 years, are cadre based parties. In addition, what is important is that about 30 lakh people came, so the roads were jammed, traffic was affected, but not even a single cart, a single vehicle was damaged or looted. The same thing had happened during Anna’s movement. If we consider it from this aspect, people from the entire country had joined and supported Anna’s movement, but here, people from all over West Bengal had come to Kolkata. This shows the faith, love for peace and discipline that is ingrained in people’s minds in relation to Mamata.
In the next fortnight there is a possibility of big political changes in the country. There is a possibility of new alliances. And, I see no two opinions on that whichever alliance will be formed on the basis of an economic programme, that alliance will move rapidly towards ruling the country, because this country needs to be freed from a market based economy, from corruption. Here, villages should be made independent and self-sufficient, villages should be given strength. The urban economy should run in tandem with the rural economy, and industrial coordination should be started immediately between villages and cities and towns. Otherwise this country will move towards civil strife.
The most important part of this rally was that it was not shown in the country. Channels in West Bengal were showing this rally continuously, and for twenty-four hours before the rally had been talking amongst themselves about its importance, but no Hindi channel or English channel showed this rally live from Kolkata. Narendra Modi’s rally, whether it is of one lakh people, 50 thousand people, 5 lakh people, is continuously hogging the headlines in the country’s media and shown live. The smallest rally of Rahul Gandhi is shown live, but Mamata Banerjee’s rally of 20 to 30 lakh people has no standing for the media of the country. What kind of face of the media this is, one cannot understand. The Times of India writes on its website that this rally was of two million people, i.e. 20 lakh people, but in its paper it does not mention the number of people at the rally but just says it was a ‘huge’ rally. This is our country’s media. It seems to me that our colleagues too need to understand : we should not take journalism to a level where people see us and seeing us, laugh at us; see us, and believing us to be somebody’s trumpet, mock us and make fun of us. We should not only maintain our dignity and the capacity to see truth, but should also raise it.
Mamata Banerjee gave a long speech in the Kolkata rally. She said in her speech that the way we are making a new West Bengal, in the same way we will build a new India too. She raised the slogan of ‘Dilli Chalo’ (Let’s go to Delhi) and from the platform yelled out, ‘danga party chai na’ (we don’t want a rioters party ) and the crowd responded and yelled back enthusiastically, ‘danga party chai na, Congress chai na). Mamata Banerjee made an announcement of fighting elections all over the country. This means that there will now be a face-off in the country between Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also claiming through TV channels of fighting elections country wide and on the other side Nitish Kumar is engaged in trying to cobble together a ‘morcha’ (front) with the Left parties and Sharad Pawar’s Congress. Actually, how relevant all these fronts and parties other than the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, who are talking of fighting the elections will be remains to be seen. But the way Mamata Banerjee took the names of Narendra Modi, the Congress, the BJP at the Kolkata rally and used the term ‘danga party’ is significant. It is significant because a short while ago, former West West Bengal Chief Minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M ) politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had alleged at a rally that “It is no secret that Modi and the Trinamool Congress have entered into an alliance…” and Mamata Banerjee’s statement at the 30 January rally gave the lie to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s assertion. One fails to understand why in politics, instead of fighting a political fight in blaming each other, a ‘corrupted’ battle is fought. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the entire Left know very well that Mamata Banerjee is opposed to Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Linking her with Narendra Modi despite this can be taken to be an attempt to lure secular votes in West Bengal towards the Left, but it is not an honest attempt.
The people of West Bengal have sided with Mamata Banerjee against the Left because in 35 years of Leftist rule the administrative system had gone awry. The entire administration had gone into the hands of the Leftist cadres and the general public was not being benefited. It was this that I tried to learn first hand and when talking to people who had come to the rally, it seemed to me that even now, all those many questions, to which as an answer they had made Mamata Banerjee the West Bengal Chief Minister, are still alive in the minds of the people and they do not want to face those questions again. This means that like Mamata Banerjee’s victory in the Assembly elections — she scored the same kind of victory in the Panchayat elections of West Bengal, and perhaps Mamata Banerjee will also register a similar win in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
A senior Army officer I met in Kolkata gave me an example of Mamata’s public relations. On 26 January – Republic Day — Mamata Banerjee walked two kilometers greeting the crowds lining both sides of the Republic Day parade route with folded hands before reaching and sitting at her designated place. At the end of the parade, she got up again and walked two kilometers, greeting people with folded hands before departing. This is a rare example of Mamata’s contact with the people. On the other hand, Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, had announced that he would sit together with the aam aadmi (common people )and watch the 26 January parade. But on that day, without assigning any reasons, he was seen sitting in the high security parade area, alongside Central Ministers.
Mamata Banerjee has made an announcement of fighting the Lok Sabha elections in the country, but how will she fight? What will be her theories, her issues, what will her candidates be like and how will the people develop confidence in those candidates? I have learnt that the General Secretary of Mamata Banerjee’s party, Mukul Roy, has written a letter to Anna Hazare, and in that letter Anna’s economic programme has been accepted. He has also written in the letter that we want your guidance in implementing these programmes in the country. So will Mamata Banerjee and Anna Hazare get together and run some campaign in the country? Because Anna Hazare’s economic programme is not the economic programme of any party; Anna Hazare’s economic programme is a people-based economic programme against the ongoing market economy of the country. In her long speech on 30 January, Mamata Banerjee used the phrase ‘pro-people Government’. This means that in her heart she accepts the programme of Anna Hazare. Can unity be forged in the country on an economic basis – that is one question that has arisen from the 30 January rally in Kolkata.
Anna Hazare’s economic programme is more revolutionary than that of the Leftist parties. More than the Leftist parties, it will be the people of the country to whom the economic programme of Anna Hazare will be understandable, and Mamata Banerjee who has accepted this programme, is not only the first Chief Minister of the country to have done so, but is also the chief of a large ruling political party. This event can prove to be one that will take politics in India in a new direction and perhaps Indian politics is standing at a new doorstep, where the shine from fake faces will disappear and the brightness of the general public will grow. Mamata Banerjee’s statement has passed before my eyes, in which she has said, I do not fear anyone and as long as I live, I will live like a tigress.
In the next fortnight there is a possibility of big political changes in the country. There is a possibility of new alliances. And, I see no two opinions on that whichever alliance will be formed on the basis of an economic programme, that alliance will move rapidly towards ruling the country, because this country needs to be freed from a market based economy, from corruption. Here, villages should be made independent and self-sufficient, villages should be given strength.The urban economy should run in tandem with the rural economy, and industrial coordination should be started immediately between villages and cities and towns. Otherwise this country will move towards civil strife. The Trinamool Congress rally in West Bengal held on 30 January was a rally of the people, of a sea, of a declaration of the aspirations of the people, in which Mamata Banerjee roared like a tigress and said, ‘Dilli Chalo’. Because Delhi needs a humane Government. In other words, so that the Government in Delhi should be a pro-people one. Let us see whether Mamata’s roar of ‘Dilli Chalo’ has any effect or she just remains a tigress in a jungle.