The Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s tax waiver for people painting their houses in West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s favourite blue and white colours has raised the hackles in some quarters. However, imposing colour schemes on the cities by the rulers is an old practice. Mamata could have taken a leaf from the famed “pink city” Jaipur and the “blue city” of Jodhpur in Rajasthan to hit upon the blue-white combination to give a certain identity to the eastern metropolis through a uniform colour code. However, it remains to be seen whether the government’s colour makeover will extend to ridding the under-renovation Writers’ Buildings of its now politically incorrect red coating, as also the tellingly named police headquarters, Lalbazar.
There is little doubt, though, that Mamata has been far more audacious, as is her wont, than her predecessors in the corridors of power, for all that the comrades could do in their three decades in power was to paint the tip of the 48m high Ochterlony monument, built in 1848, red after naming the structure Shahid Minar. They left the rest of the fabled second city of the British empire alone apart from erecting a statue of Lenin at the Esplanade end of the Dharmatala Street, which was renamed Lenin Sarani, and calling Harrington Street, where the US consulate is located, Ho Chi Minh Sarani to annoy Uncle Sam.
Mercifully, Mamata hasn’t been engaged in setting up statues, probably because she doesn’t have an ideological guru. Nor has she renamed any of the streets. However, her emphasis from the start has been on seeing things in blue and white. She began by insisting that Kolkata’s familiar yellow-and-black taxis should be repainted blue-and-white. The trams, too, have donned these colours. As have Presidency jail in addition to the flyovers, bridges and park fences. Once the private residences succumb to her whim, she can proclaim: mission accomplished.