It’s been 6 months now that Mamata Banerjee took over as the chief minister of West Bengal after a historic win over the Left front. It was a crucial moment in Indian politics as she unseated the longest-serving elected Communist government on the planet & gave a major blow to mainstream communism in India. People of Bengal voted for ‘poribarton’ (change). Didi called it a victory of ‘Maa Maati & Maanush’. And even under the pressure of sky rocketed expectations; Didi has delivered!
The very first poribarton that didi brought, was, that within 19 days after swearing in as the chief minister, she solved the Darjeeling hill crisis by convincing the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to accept an agreement with her government which will intend to address all the key issues raised by the GJM. Mamata also assured the GJM leaders that her government will take up all the development activities in the area. Darjelling saw municipal elections after 7 long years! An emotional Mamata Banerjee described the Queen of Hills – ‘Darjeeling as her Switzerland baby’.
West Bengal was once India’s industrial hegemon but today it fares as one of the worst states with little growth in its industries. During the 34 year long rule of Left, the share of manufacturing sector in the state’s economy fell from 19 percent in 1975 to 7.4 percent in 2009. Opposed to technology and computerization Left government also removed English from government schools in the 1980’s which deprived two generations of Bengalis of a comparative advantage. And we expect Mamata Banerjee to change all this within 6 months? Why put her on anvil constantly? Bengal has received proposals for investments of Rs 56,000 crore since the Trinamul-led government took power six months ago. Larson & Toubro will invest in Bengal after 34 years; projects of TVC & Jindals have been cleared. Also, SAIL have their expansion programme of more than Rs 20,000 crore. Fact is that Bengal is so off the map today that it will take years for it to strike back.
Didi also needs to be applauded for giving attention to the poorest of the poor in ‘Jungle Mahal’ (Maoist stronghold) by announcing that all tribals in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts would be included in the BPL list. The poor tribals now will be eligible to get rice at Rs. 2/kg. She is reaching out to Maoists.
Among various initiatives of the TMC government, the most popular one is the decision to return 400 acres of land to the farmers of Singur acquired from them for the Nano car factory of the Tata motors. Her government has also passed a bill in the Assembly to return a portion of the land acquired by previous Left Front government from the unwilling farmers for the factory. Though the Tatas have challenged her in court and case is going on. But, in all this one thing is clear, that Didi has emerged as a populist leader among farmers and is doing every bit to help them.
Another major breakthrough for the TMC government has been the recent death of Maoist leader Kishenji in an encounter and a blow to all those who were smearing against Mamata on her Maoist policy. Of course naysayers will argue that it was the CRPF that killed him but did we say the same for Obama when Osama Bin Laden was killed by the army. No? Okay! But the greater challenge for Didi today lies in developing the tribal areas and winning their hearts, which, I am sure she will.
Some of the problems which Didi has been saddled with are because of the past positions taken by the protagonists, positions which are deeply entrenched today because of past exigencies. Like the crisis in rural health infrastructure is not unique to Bengal. Go to Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan and you might find even worse cases. But, this is not a justification that I give and Didi has to do much to bring a ‘poribarton’ in the sorry state of affairs in Health care which were under Left government for 34 years. Plus, an adequate supply of financial resources is indispensable for any Government to trigger the State’s medium-term development on a firm footing but funds clearly seem a problem as Center is also not really in a mood to give special assistance to their ally. And Didi has said “I won’t go begging”.
The story of Bengal needs to be rewritten and Mamata Banerjee is indeed the best person to hold the pen. It is clear that Mamata Banerjee understands the world is watching and at least initially, she has set in motion a proactive work culture. The journey is tough but so is Didi!