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Personal abuse and attacks mar Bengal poll campaign

Wednesday May 11, 2011 04:53:28 PM, Pradipta Tapadar, IANS

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Kolkata: While being high on drama and significance, the just concluded West Bengal assembly polls also saw a new low in political campaigning with leaders using obscene language, unparliamentary remarks and making vicious personal attacks.

A state which prides itself on its rich cultural heritage and high level of political consciousness saw its politicians indulge in frequent mudslinging and hitting each other below the belt during a no-holds barred campaign for the polls, which are seen as the stiffest test for the over three-decade-old Left Front government.

Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and former MP Anil Basu landed himself in the hall of shame by making obscene remarks against main opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, the union railway minister, while questioning the source of her party's "enormous funds" for the election.

The comments, which even contained references to a red light area, were picked up by almost all local television channels, which continuously aired the clip. Some of the channels censored the comments, describing the words as "unsuitable for broadcasting".

Basu's comments not only drew widespread criticism from all sections of the society but also a show-cause notice from the election commission. Top CPI-M leaders openly condemned Basu and forced him to apologise publicly, besides banning him from addressing election meetings.

Anil Basu had earlier triggered a controversy claiming that "given the powers, I would have pulled Mamata Banerjee by her hair and dragged her to her south Kolkata residence Kalighat from Singur" - the site of the makeshift podium where she was demonstrating against the Tata Motors small car Nano plant.

Only a couple of days later, Banerjee thundered at an election rally that she controlled a "large number of goons".

Needless to say the CPI-M used the remarks to blunt the edge of the criticism of Basu's comments and lost no time in moving the Election Commission.

But more muck followed.

Paschimanchal Development Minister Sushanta Ghosh (CPI-M) launched a vitriolic attack on Banerjee at a rally saying "a person who has not had the fortune of applying red (read vermillion - a Hindu custom for married women; the Trinamool supremo is unmarried) on her forehead will always have allergy towards red (read communists)".

While Ghosh made the comments in Garbeta of West Midnapore district, further south, Land Reforms Minister Abdul Rezzak Mollah threatened a bloodbath on the day of the vote count - May 13.

The Trinamool leaders, too, were no angels.

Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy called state housing minister and senior CPI-M leader Gautam Deb "a clown" for making what he called "baseless" allegations against the Trinamool.

Roy is tipped to take over the reins of the railway ministry from Banerjee if she becomes chief minister after the election.

Trinamool heavyweight and leader of opposition in the assembly Partha Chattopadhyay, a former general manager of a state owned company, also suffered from the "foot in the mouth syndrome" as he described the chief minister as a "man with an unsound mind" and "a child".

"Use of obscene remark is a new trend in Bengal politics. The mudslinging was always there in politics but this kind of remarks and personal attack is unprecedented and undesirable," said Amal Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst.

Similar instances of personal abuse were seen during the 2009 Lok Sabha Polls when Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee had called Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee "a liar, who drinks scotch at Nandan (a cultural complex - which was Bhattacharjee's favourite) in the company of women".

The comments had then drawn severe criticism from all sections of the society, but Trinamool chose to stand behind Kalyan Banerjee.

"I have never heard such usage of unparliamentary language in Bengal politics. When our leader used such language we asked him to apologise. But what about Trinamool? They never care to apologise when they use unparliamentary language," CPI-M MP and veteran leader Basudev Acharya told IANS.

"These sort of remarks are unprecedented in Bengal politics. There were allegations and counter-allegations earlier, but such words were never used," said Abdul Mannan, Congress leader.

"This time it has gone out of proportion. The CPI-M is doing it out of despair. They know they will lose, so they are giving a last try," said Trinamool MP and veteran leader Saugata Roy.

Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, however, blamed the media.

"I think the media is totally responsible as they are showing these things again and again and instigating the opponents to react to it with same kind of words," said Chatterjee.

Political scientists feel use of obscene remarks undermines the state's rich political heritage.

"This kind of language is a threat for the next generation of politicians," said Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri, a political analyst.

According to Amal Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College, "political parties should check this phenomenon as it is totally contradictory to the political history of the state".

 



(Pradipta Tapadar can be contacted at pradipta.t@ians.in)



 

 

 

 

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