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Mainstream, VOL L, No 26, June 16, 2012

Pranab as Numero Uno

Wednesday 20 June 2012, by Barun Das Gupta

For Pranab Mukherjee, who has been in politics for about half-a-century, the Number One position has always been the proverbial ‘jam tomorrow’. At last, he is going to be the Numero Uno—the first citizen of the country. What is more, the UPA has sponsored him, the Left is about to make a formal announcement of its support to him, the NDA, at the time of writing, is giving broad hints that it will not oppose him.

The BSP has made known its support for him. And topping the list of Pranab’s supporters is, of course, netaji, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had, only a couple of days ago, held a joint press conference with Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee in New Delhi to announce, first, that neither Pranab Mukherjee nor Hamid Ansari was acceptable to him and that he would like to see either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as Bharat ke Rashtrapati.

Like a kaleidoscope turning and making new and bizarre patterns, all that changed in less than forty-eight hours. There is a spirit of bon-homie all around. Pranab Mukherjee has almost become a symbol of national unity. There is talk of Mamata Banerjee having been totally isolated, having exposed how immature she is as a politician. And all that. The corporate-owned media, newspapers and news channels are heaping scorn on her, asking the Congress not to put up with her ‘insolence’, fuming at what they say is a ‘slap in the face both for the Congress and the UPA’ and with oracular foreknowledge predicting that if Congress insists on making Pranab the President, Mulayam ‘could easily come around’.

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WHAT does this all-embracing unity—from UPA to NDA to the Estbalishment Left, to daliton ki netri Mayawati to Samajvadi leader Mulayam Singh, to the corporate world and those behind them pulling the strings from across the oceans —mean? It is not just opposition to Mamata Banerjee the eccentric and unpredictable indi-vidual. It is much more than that. Mamata Banerjee may not have a profound theoretical knowledge of how capitalism and imperialism work against the basic interests of the common people. But as a practising politician she has the practical experience to understand what is good for the people and what is bad for them.
It is this understanding that has made her take a firm stand against setting up of SEZs and chemical hubs, against rise in prices of food, fuel and other essential commodities, against inves-ting pension funds in stock markets, against allowing FDI in the retail sector to squeeze out tens of thousands of petty traders and shopkeepers and a host of other things. In fact what she stands for goes against the interests of the corporates and monopolies—both indigenous and foreign. And not only their interests but the interests of all the stakeholders in the present system, irrespective of party affiliations, irrespective of ideologies.

The nomination of Pranab Mukherjee, who—as the Finance Minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet—has been a pliant tool for implementing the World Bank, IMF and State Department-dictated ‘reforms’ and the ‘consensus’ that has been built up behind him, shows the array of forces that the people of this country are up against. Their struggles—long, sustained struggles—will have to be built up. Whether Mamata Banerjee emerges as the leader of the struggle or not, the battle has to be waged and won.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Dasgupta.

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