Kolkata’s vital thoroughfare Red Road on Friday took on a green hue as thousands of ecstatic Trinamool Congress supporters — their faces smeared in the green colour of the party — chanted “Bangla Hobe Biswasera” (Bengal will be world’s best) and celebrated on the street as their beloved “Didi” took over the reins of the state for the second time.
Moving away from the regal confines of Raj Bhavan, where new governments are traditionally sworn in, party supremo Mamata Banerjee chose the arterial Red Road — renamed Indira Gandhi Sarani — as the venue of the grand swearing-in, to ensure the participation of the masses at her second coronation and dedicated the day to “Ma, Mati, Manush” (Mother, Land and people) — her pet slogan.
And her supporters, many of whom had travelled hundreds of kilometres from far-flung districts, from rickshaw-pullers to coolies, farmers, labourers, housemaids, as also street vendors and the middle class, arrived in large numbers to be part of the “historic day”.
While eminent personalities from the world of politics, cinema and sports occupied chairs close to the main stage, relaxing in air-conditioned comfort, the commoners seemed equally at ease, even as their clothes got drenched in sweat under a scorching sun and in oppressive humidity.
Many had spent the night at railway platforms and walked all the way to the venue out of their love for “Didi” — the Bengali for elder sister — who was administered the oath of office and secrecy by West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi for her second innings at the helm.
“I have come all the way here to watch Didi become chief minister again. We always feel she is one of us, and by taking the oath in public she has proved that,” Rabin Mondal, who came from Bolpur in Birbhum district, 160 km from Kolkata, told IANS.
From garlands made of freshly plucked flowers to ripe mangoes from their garden, many villagers brought gifts for Banerjee, hoping to hand them over personally to her to express their gratitude.
Biswajit from the city brought along a portrait he had made of the chief minister.
“I have been working on this portrait since May 19 (the day of the assembly election results) and I wish to personally give it to her. I love her. She has done wonders for the state and one day she will definitely turn Bengal into a world beater,” said the middle-aged man.
Dejected at being prevented from getting anywhere near the ceremony stage, Biswajit, however, seemed confident of personally delivering the gift to Banerjee someday.
The soaring mercury did not come in the way of the celebratory mood. Supporters held aloft Trinamool flags, with the party’s symbol of twin flowers and blades of grass, amid deafening slogan shouting of “Didi zindabad” and “Trinamool zindabad”.
The crowd that started gathering since morning, joined in a thunderous roar when Banerjee ascended the dais a little after noon.
They applauded and cheered lustily as she took the oath in Bengali in the name of “Ishwar and Allah”.
With the public enclosure at a distance from the stage, the crowd had to be content watching the ceremony on giant screens put up on both sides of the road.
Some felt disheartened at the arrangement.
“Ever since Didi announced that she will take the oath before the people, I had hoped to watch the historic event from close quarters. But what’s the use coming so far and watching it on the screen,” rued Nasir Mollah, who came from Burdwan district.
Street vendors selling Trinamool party gear did brisk business with people flocking to buy them. The demand for Banerjee masks and Trinamool key chains was the most.
The massive crowd was a telling testimony on who was the sole boss of the Trinamool.
As soon as Banerjee finished taking her oath of office, the crowd started to disperse. They were apparently not interested in the rest of the ceremony of oath taking by the ministers.