Mamata's move earned instant claps, but what in long run?

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Updated: Thursday, December 13, 2012, 11:06 [IST]

In India, the Leftists are ridiculed for not understanding the reality and sticking to theoretical propositions. Quite predictably, they have been routed as far as electoral politics is concerned. But to India's woes, a new breed of politicians has replaced them.

Following the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 assembly elections, a regional party called Trinamool Congress gained prominence both at the national and state levels. The leader of the party, who till then was mostly known as a firebrand politician in the opposition ready to flex her muscle at every second instance, now found herself holding important government posts.

Long-term effect of Mamata's move

She became the railway minister at the Centre first and then after winning the Bengal assembly elections, became the chief minister of the state. A state, which had suffered under a stagnant Left rule for over three decades, saw it as a much-needed change and hoped the new leader would script a great turnaround.

But that wasn't to be. The leader, Mamata Banerjee, never really succeeded in ensuring any worthwhile governance during her first sixteen months as the CM, apart from catching news headlines mostly for wrong reasons. She spent these months uttering hollow slogans without any work on ground and carried on quarrelling with the central government on every other issue.

There was clearly no strategy or planned approach, either political or economic, and the final moment came on Sept 18 when she concluded the alliance by pulling out of the UPA government, saying she could never compromise with the people's interest. She, however, opposed the all-India strike called by the opposition parties two days later, saying it was also against the interest of the state and its people.

Two serious dangers:

Mamata's decision to pull out of the government has not only weakened the Centre, but it actually set the time bomb ticking. In the name of protecting the people's interest, Mamata basically invited two dangers for Bengal.

The first is an economic danger. The Trinamool leader must understand that no matter how much importance she attaches to herself in the national politics, her power is too little to shape it. The wisdom lied in completing the full term for by alienating the Centre, Mamata landed herself in a blind lane.

As an administrator, her electorate expect her to commit herself for the betterment of the state but there is hardly any economic strength for the state government to ensure comprehensive growth. Her 'new nationalism' might sound good as political rhetoric, but in effect, it will only add to the crisis in Bengal's economy. Banerjee has no understanding of the fact that the rules of economics can not be controlled whimsically.

By blackmailing the central government, Mamata will pave way for cheaper rupee and costlier fuel but will be in no position to influence the government for she has decided to leave it. In her state, Mamata said she would not allow the FDI to enter, saying it would only corner the common man. Opposing fuel price hike or crying foul over the FDI amounts to hollow populism as every person with a minimum economic sense will say that both are normal. Neither can we go for eternity by subsidising fuel and nor the entry of FDI in retail will endanger local traders. There are already Indian retail brands working in India and no 'casualty' has been reported because of that yet.

Had Mamata Banerjee really wanted to cater to the people's interest, she should have welcomed the FDI in multi-brand retail. Is the 'middleman class' who will be threatened by the FDI, a 'source of strength' for the Indian parties in some sense?

The second danger is a political one. Populist politicians like Mamata Banerjee only live for the elections and not overall betterment. She has taken full advantage of the general Indian distaste of foreign capital and jumped into the anti-government protest, thinking it would boost her image to a great degree. But this would only backfire in the long term in terms of poll benefits.

A report in The Telegraph gave a sound explanation: "Even if her (Mamata's) campaign on the 'anti-people' reforms helps her, the new poll alignments could prove to be a handicap. She may find herself in the position that the CPM faced for long - fighting a disunited Opposition. But she may not benefit from it the way the CPM did. The simple reason is: Whatever votes the Congress and the BJP get fighting on their own will be garnered largely from the anti-Left segment."

Mamata wants that both the Bengal panchayat polls and the general elections are brought ahead so that she succeeds in nullifying the anti-incumbency factor and ensure that she gets a fresh and strong mandate. But after parting ways with the Congress, the Trinamool will not find the going smooth. The TT report said that the Left's vote share in the 2011 assembly poll was above 41 per cent despite the humiliating loss and a rift in the TMC-Congress alliance will mean that the anti-Left vote share will not be an assuring one. The Congress in Bengal is anyhow an underperformer but the reduced vote share may not facilitate Mamata's future political plans.

It will also give a chance to the BJP to rise in Bengal, a region where it has been traditionally a non-starter. The state BJP leadership expressed its happiness recently over Mamata's policies of appeasing minorities for the former knows such overt measures aimed at certain sections of the minority classes will not only fragment that vote-bank but also will lead to a negative impact on the non-minority sections. And with the secular forces like the Congress and Left weakened considerably, the saffron party has a big possibility to emerge into an alternative to Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.

FDI in retail is never going to be a poll issue like corruption. Mamata Banerjee failed to understand that basic point and felt elated that her antagonism would boost her populist stance. But only banking on populist stance and ignoring realistic governance will prove costly for Bengal's most admired mass leader one day.

 

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