Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Saturday, May 11, 2013


By Richa Rai / Kolkata

Is Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, losing the publicity battle while hanging on to her edge or has she completely misjudged the extent of governance needed in the state that she emphatically wrested from the Left almost two years ago?

To be fair, cleansing Bengal of the mess left from 34 years of Left rule is no easy task. But there seems to be no evidence that Banerjee is tackling the mess at all. Instead, you have a chief minister who cannot delegate and has surrounded herself by yes-men as she lurches from controversy to crisis and back.
As a result, the discussions about her have not changed over the past two years: Banerjee still sees herself as an opposition leader, her style is agit-prop and she has moulded herself so well into the Left style of functioning and ideology that she is unable to extricate herself and her government from protests and launch into action.

For a state like Bengal which needs both life-saving surgery as well as long-term post-operative care, the Banerjee style of functioning has been nothing short of a disaster. Rather than get down to work, she has been on a blaming spree and displays a childish petulance whenever questioned. Everything is seen through the prism of the Trinamool Congress and how it is being maligned. This can have bizarre consequences because everything from rape to fire to murder feeds this paranoia.

The death of a student activist belonging to the Students’ Federation of India is the latest fracas in Bengal. Banerjee’s response was to say that all death is sad and that Trinamool activists have also died. She seems incapable of grasping the fact that as chief minister, she is accountable to all the people of Bengal not just to her party workers.

Meanwhile, Bengal still has not managed to deal with its massive debt. New schemes and plans for the re-booting of the state are thin on the ground. Banerjee is so vehemently opposed to reforms of any kind that movement as far as policy is concerned is slower than swimming through molasses. Banerjee’s only strategy appears to be whining about the Centre not cooperating.

In fact, Banerjee’s only blueprint appears to be whatever was left behind by the Left. The “Bengal is a step-child” argument was used by the Left for years. The pretence of being “for the people” while sabotaging any idea which might help some people is another tactic she has picked up from them. Going on morchas and protest marches against your own government is also a Left move she has adopted.

The problem for the people of West Bengal is that they are stuck between that proverbial rock and hard place. The rise of the Trinamool Congress was predicated on the sins of the CPM. But the shadow of the Left does not easily exit a state that it ruled for 34 years. Banerjee has not known any other political dispensation – for all her little forays to the Centre with both the Congress and the BJP. It is the Left which consumes her and it is this obsession which will eventually defeat her.

So unprepared was she for this victory that she has only surrounded herself by yes-men and so insecure is she that anyone who raises a tiny question is summarily dismissed. That she is losing goodwill does not occur to her because she lives in a cocoon spun by her own paranoia.

What Banerjee is not accounting for is that she is pushing the Left and the Congress together. Both parties will need each other for 2014 – what is at stake is a lot more than West Bengal even if Bengal is theatre they will use. The Left has been voiceless for too long and the only way they can use their vocal cords is if they inch closer to the UPA. The UPA is looking to rebuild its list of allies for the general elections and the Left right now seems a pleasanter option than Banerjee.

The losers in all this are the people of West Bengal who are stuck with a capricious leader for the next three years… The only hope for India is that Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s axiom that what Bengal does today India does tomorrow will not come true this time!
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