|West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee|
BENGAL MUST WIN
By Biswadip Mitra
As expected, it's a 'green storm' in West Bengal. But frankly speaking, it doesn't matter which party wins to form the government. It is the state that needs to win. Bengal has been a loser on many fronts for years and that must change.
What matters is whether the ruling dispensation understands that governance cannot be replaced with thuggery of lumpen elements. By simply flaunting a few welfare measures, a government cannot expect to always earn public approval when law-and-order is in shambles. Jobs must be created and the youth must not feel suffocated. If the scourge of unemployment is not addressed, then more and more young people will take desperate measures, even if it means breaking the law.
That's exactly what happened in West Bengal over the last five years. The Mamata Banerjee government came to power in 2011 riding on negative votes against the misrule of the Left Front. Mamata's Trinamool Congress had promised 'poriborton' (change) but that remained just a promise. In reality, it is the much-vaunted 'Maa-Mati-Manush' (mother, land, people) approach of the Trinamool which changed into a 'money-lumpen-mafia' regime.
For 34 years, people of West Bengal suffered the atrocities unleashed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist and its allies in the Left Front. Through the decades hundreds of thousands political murders were orchestrated by the sinister elements in the state. Under the Left rule there was no economic development. Endemic labour unrest, backed by the Leftist policy, forced industrial houses to leave the state. There were job loses, chronic unemployment and violence. The state's economy took a massive beating and the pathetic Communists blamed it all on the Centre, saying the state suffered due to the central government's “conspiracy”.
During its 34-year rule, all that the Left Front bragged about was the 'Operation Barga' -- a land reform movement. To be fair, it did help a lot of farmers that formed the bulk of Left vote bank. But for the educated young people, especially in the urban centres, there was no hope. Life seemed bleak without jobs and a stable, peaceful future.
The lucky few managed to escape the grime of Communist misrule, but the millions who couldn't had to bear the brunt.
However, there was Mamata Banerjee. Young and unyielding, she fought the Communists on the streets and remained firm in her opposition to the CPI-M. A lot many people saw a ray of hope in her. They supported her, prayed for her success and gradually rallied around her. The rest, as they say, is history.
But as chief minister of West Bengal Mamata has forgotten all of that. The hope she raised among the million hearts died as she veered away from governance and did nothing when her marauding cadres plundered the state. The hydra-headed monster of corruption engulfed her administration, but Mamata was nonchalant. The good works she initiated in the shape of welfare programmes and development suffered due to the bad deeds of her party leaders, many of them her close confidant.
There was opposition. From commoners to civil society, they all raised voices. However, it didn't change anything and Mamata remained defiant, terming all dissenters as “conspirators”. In other words, she failed to realise that even if the opposition parties are vanquished, there will always be voices opposing the rulers if they go wrong. She didn't accept that in a democracy there will be different ideas and no criticism should be dismissed as an “attempt to malign”.
Mamata often talks of her personal integrity in the face of corruption allegations, but there's no doubt that her outfit is corrupt. From scamsters to goons, Trinamool Congress is now a party of dubious people. The perception is that criminal elements once attached to the Left Front have been welcomed in the Trinamool fold just to gain more control. While Mamata stays silent, these people exploit their political connections to the hilt. The police in Bengal are spineless: anyone flaunting links with the Trinamool can get away. It's exactly a mirror image of what people faced under the Left rule.
Now that Mamata Banerjee has stormed back to power in West Bengal with a massive mandate, it will be a tough challenge for her to maintain discipline among the cadres of her Trinamool Congress. They could go on a rampage and each element in the party, big or small, will claim his pound of flesh. Mamata herself could become more aggressive and arrogant. Without any credible, strong opposition to red-flag the ruling party's wrongdoings, Bengal may go through yet another cycle of scams and high-handedness. That's the worry.
So as the celebrations continue after Trinamool's victory in Bengal assembly election, let's pause and think what lies ahead for the people of this state. For decades people of Bengal have been forced to walk on the road to perdition. Will that change now?
We sincerely hope that it does. Or else, the 'bhadrolok' and 'bhadromohila' of Bengal -- the gentler, cultured Bengalee -- will not survive. That won't do rest of India any good.