Saturday, April 9, 2011


Can Bengal Change?
How the Trinamool can show it’s different
There will be some sighs as the Trinamool and Congress parties finally
seal their seat-sharing deal for the upcoming Bengal elections, the allies
sighing in relief, the incumbent CPM in resignation at the challenge posed.
With the Congress settling for 65 of 294 seats, some aspects of realpolitik
come to light. Aware of the crest Mamata Banerjee is riding, the Congress
has made a wise decision to not squabble over numbers but give in to its
more powerful regional partner. On its side, the Trinamool recognises the
advantages of the alliance, keeping the anti-Left vote together and
retaining its link with the national-level party. Why the last is a plus is
connected to the Left’s history in Bengal.
The CPM came to power in 1977, riding a tide of hope and achieving
accomplishments like Operation Barga, land transferred to sharecroppers,
while maintaining communal harmony in a state that experienced horrific
rioting at Partition. However, it also choked much of Bengal’s civil society,
party politics dominating everything – whether college entrances, job
allocations, law and order, the last a terror tactic used by party
musclemen snatching rights and resources. Bengal once held myriad
businesses and manufacturing. Over the years, faced with regimented
bullying, these dried up. Meanwhile, the state’s performance in poverty
reduction and education dipped, its fiscal debt rose, its professionals
migrated and the desperation around land intensified. Recently attempting
to rejuvenate industry, the Left blotted its copybook severely. Its ‘official’
goondas terrorised locals at sites like Nandigram, handing Mamata a moral
Currently, while her own precise vision for Bengal’s development is yet to
fully emerge, Mamata’s electoral strategy has been astute. The Trinamool
first broke open the CPM’s rural bastion, performing well in panchayat, zila
and civic elections. It won over intellectuals, roped in software guru
Sabeer Bhatia to help its cyber campaign and announced FICCI secretarygeneral
Amit Mitra’s candidature, sending encouraging signals to industry.
In all this, its link with the Congress remains significant, for it sends a
message that Bengal’s days of isolation may be over. A government
working with the Centre, not constantly opposing it, could serve popular
aspirations well. The implementation of poverty reduction strategies, such
as NREGA, could improve in an environment divested of patronage politics
and ideological wars. And being linked to a party often in central
government, answerable to Parliament, could help reduce political violence
in the state. It is through moves like these that Mamata can show that the
Trinamool Congress isn’t just about realpolitik but also about real change,
providing the break that Bengal longs for.

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