Monday, January 4, 2010

Bihar's growth should inspire Bengal

Once termed as the king of 'cow belt' and the 'bimru state' of India, Bihar after decades of being in the news for wrong reasons has something to cheer about. What seems more out of a Bollywood script than reality, the state once regarded as the most backward in the country has grown at an average of 11.03% in the five-year period between 2004-05 and 2008-09 against a national average of 8.49%. It is second only to one of India's most developed states Gujarat, which recorded a growth-rate of 11.05%. Now that's what is called resurgence.

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav might not agree but Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who assumed power in 2005 finally has figures to prove his success. Nitish has successfully countered the 'Jungle Raj' which was going on during his predecessor's era. Not only the crime rate in the state has come down during his rule but the state has started taking giant steps towards economic development. What's more remarkable is that the 11.03% growth comes after a negative 5.15 % growth in 2003-04 during the Lalu-Rabri era.

Bihar's story has the potential to inspire other states in its proximity. One such is its eastern neighbour West Bengal. Once the glittering jewel of Indian industrialisation, West Bengal has also had the same sad story to tell which Bihar was telling five years ago. A wind of political change is blowing across Bengal similar to the one in Bihar five years ago. Three decades of the Left Rule has hampered the image of the state in terms of industrialisation. The once flourishing state has been pushed to the dark ages by a bunch of politicians whose policies were too narrow in thought and did not take into account the fast changing global environment.

Although the Left Front government might have done wonderful deeds with their Land Reforms moment in the earlier part of their rule but on most other indicators they have miserably failed. It is quite a shame for the West Bengal government who calls itself pro-poor pro-farmer to have fared miserably when it came to NREGA. Their trade unionism meant that West Bengal did not figure in the investment map of India. Post the LPG (Liberalisation Privatisation Globalisation) era when the country too giant steps in economic reforms, Bengal Government seemed to have only snored.

Even though West Bengal's law and order situation hasn't been as bad as Lalu's Bihar but it is no better either. In the last three decades Left had made sure that in rural Bengal, police and administration was replaced by its party cadres. Nandigram and Singur showed us the ugly face of the Left hooliganism. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might have tried his best to revive the image of the state but Bengal's grave was dug long back by the Left Front.

The people of the State have to leave the pessimism behind and look forward to growth and development. If Bihar can do it under the leadership of Nitish Kumar why cannot Bengal do the same when change finally comes in 2011? Left has been in the power for too long to be trusted any more. Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee might just do the turn around story in Bengal. After all if Nitish had to counter 'Jungle Raj' Mamata and Pranab will have to encounter 'Andhera Raj' that's what the current regime can be defined as.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mamata plays a political master stroke

When Mamata Banerjee chased the Tata Nano project out of Singur she was being seen as a monster standing in the path of West Bengal's re-industrialization. A lot of water has flown down the Hoogly since then and the fearsome lady who single handedly caused one of the biggest political upsets for Left in the Lok Sabha. Now she is planning to deliver the final death blows to India's longest running state government.

Mamata played a political master stroke on Sunday when she approached the Centre with a proposal to set up a Railway project of national interest on the 600 acres of land that was acquired for the Tata Motors Nano project. The Union Railway Minister also announced that disputed 400 acres of land will be returned to the farmers who were not willing to part with. The agitation regarding this 400 acre plot had led to the closure of the Tata Nano project.

The West Bengal government had so far failed to attract any major investor to the vacant plot of land since the Tatas closed down shop in last October. Mamata has been on a roll scoring one after another political victory over the Left Front. She said that the railway project would guarantee jobs, development and prosperity like the Tata project so people of Singur will not be deprived of anything due to the closure of the Tata Nano plant.

Mamata's surprise move has put the West Bengal Government into a catch 22 situation. Left's opposition to the project would mean that the party which had cleansed its image under the leadership of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will again be tagged as being Anti-Industrialist. Giving a green signal to the project would mean offering the keys of the Writers to Mamata. This would literally mean committing a political suicide ahead of the 2011 polls.

Her 'Maa Mati Manush' campaign was strong enough to create a public wave against the Left Front and win her majority of the Lok Sabha seats from the state. Mamata has since then rewarded West Bengal under her capacity as the Railway Minister. Now Mamata wants to project herself as the future Chief Minister of the and not be seen a farmer leader standing up against industrialization. Seems like more headache for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bengal likely to see violence till 2011

The recent spate of violence in West Bengal by the Congress workers protesting against the assault on eight Congress MLAs by alleged CPI(M) cadres may be just the trailer of a long movie. The political entropy in the state is so high these incidents of violence will continue to play till the 2011 Assembly elections are over. A huge political uncertainly looms over the state and this uncertainly is fuelling fights among political parties.

Six months back nobody could have predicted the lack lustre performance of the Left Front in the Lok Sabha polls. But with successive losses in the Gram Panchyat, Lok Sabha and Municipal elections have left the Left Fort seems shaken in West Bengal. Having drawn first blood in the Lok Sabha poll the Congress and TMC combine is in no mood to let them go. Left Front is at its weakest in decades and people of the state seem to have had enough of the Red Party.

Left Front is at its lowest since it assumed power in 1977 but it will not go down without giving a serious fight. A three decade old regime won't let the power go off that easily. The ground level cadres that the Left Front has patronised for years are resorting to hooliganism time and again. The opposition parties are no better and answering them in the same language. People who hoped for a wind of change to blow across the state are realising the harsh realities of the politics in their state.

The main problem lies with the kind of political culture that has evolved in the state over the years. All the parties are responsible for making politics an act of street violence rather than being played out at the assembly. The Left Front has to take major share of the blame having been in power for so long. Torching of a few buses and pelting of stones is no longer considered unusual in West Bengal. The administration sees this as a normal law and order problem which happens everyday in some or the other part of the state.

The victims as usual are the citizens of the state who have to face the heat of political battles as well live with underdevelopment due to absence of investment. The people of the state for long have faced the apathy of a political front which never accepted that world around them was changing. Now they have to face a new challenge in their everyday lives when the rival political factions resort to hooliganism in the order to gain supremacy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Red is fading in Bengal

The elections is West Bengal continue to throw surprises. Six months back nobody other than a certain Mamata Banerjee believed that the Red bastion could be shattered in West Bengal. Proving that the Lok Sabha polls were no fluke TMC and Congress won 13 out of 16 municipalities in the state. This comes as a severe blow to the Left leader who have been engaged in a blame game within the party since the humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha Polls.

If some analysts thought the Lok Sabha results were an isolated case they better open their eyes. Bengal not only voted with the country in the parliamentary polls it also voted against its egoistic leaders. The people voted against leaders who could not bring in development form the centre and only raised the decibel levels in the Parliament. People voted out those leaders who always blamed the centre to hide their inefficiency.

Left Front may not have yet seen its worst days, the Assembly Elections in 2011 might see State Government without a 'Left Hand Drive'. In the last three decades of its rule or rather misrule in the state the only thing that the party did was strengthen its network and develop its own structure. The development of the state took a back seat as Left leaders did not foresee a day when they would have to pay the price of their misdeeds.

People around the country never understood why a government which never improved the living standard of the people was being voted in time and again. The truth is many people in Bengal could never imagine what a non-Left government would be. Left got an extended life span post the liberalisation era due to this confusion. What Bengal needed was a trigger and Nandigram exposed the ugly face of left where criminals were sent of rampage on innocent villagers.

It's not certain if a non-Left government would bring in change in the state which is starving for development but one thing is certain people have had enough of Left. The leaders who had taken people and their emotions for granted are finally facing the music. As former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson has rightly said “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”