Bengal reads TMC leaf out of CPM book
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Every week this year, Swapan Das of Kolkata has been taking time out from vending tea to read.
On New Year's Day, the space next to his stall at Gariahat was converted into a static newspaper reading stand. Week after week since, volunteers have come and pasted the latest issue of Jaago Bangla, the Trinamool Congress mouthpiece.
Swapan cherishes reading it; so do hundreds of hawkers, autorickshaw drivers and pedestrians at Gariahat, besides thousands at other stands across the city.
Public newspaper stands and community reading are by no means a Trinamool innovation; the party has simply picked up a Communist tradition. In the 1940s there was Swadhinata, banned by the British and therefore pasted at night by the undivided Communist Party. Since 1967 there has been Ganashakti, the CPM mouthpiece, displayed across the state. "It's a cost-effective means to reach hundreds and convey the party's message," says CPM leader Md Selim.
In their effort to be as effective, those behind Jaago Bangla have given the city an option. "If they can do it, why can't we ?" says Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, editor of Jaago Bangla. Swapan Das agrees: "Whether we wanted to or not, we had to read Ganashakti. Now new flowers have bloomed."
From a humble start in mid-2004, when it came out of a single room with a single DTP unit, the weekly now has a readership of about a lakh, circulation having nearly doubled after the Lok Sabha poll results.
"Every month, about 50 stands are being set up in new districts and wards, all on popular demand. Party workers gather at Mamata Banerjee's Kolkata house every Friday and take a bunch to their districts. Today there are 50 Jaago Bangla public reading stands in Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's constituency of Jadavpur alone," says Chatterjee.
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