Opinion

Just the beginning

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on November 15, 2017

Ms Hillary Clinton (left) with Ms Mamata Banerjee



Now that the dust is settling over the Clinton visit to Kolkata, it is perhaps time to consider what exactly it has achieved for the city and West Bengal, if anything at all. Frankly, considering the hype that was built up over the two-day trip, the hallmark of which was the taking over of the city's security by the Americans, one is tempted to conclude that nothing whatever will result from the trip which will make West Bengal a better place to live in.

To put it in perspective, through the eyes of the visiting US Secretary of State herself, she was very happy to be back in Kolkata which she had last visited in 1997, and that (according to official US channels) she wished that the city “would become an important hub in the new Silk Road strategy to connect the countries of East, South and Central Asia.” The short point to make here is that all this is very polite indeed but, effectively, no decisions were taken the implementation of which will make a big difference in the lives of the people of the State. For her part, the Chief Minister said that West Bengal could offer the US investment opportunities in the spheres of IT, education, health, manufacturing and deep-sea ports, which really is not a big deal unless and until concrete proposals are acted upon and the hardware gets to be erected.

All routine

All this is routine, and cannot explain by itself the pumping up of the visit by a US Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) beyond all reasonable levels. After all, a string of dignitaries have visited the city over the past decades (especially before 1977) all of whom have outstripped Ms Hillary Clinton in her official status. So what was the reason to make the Clinton visit a big splash — in form, but hardly in substance?

One easy answer is to reap the associated publicity benefits for the Trinamool dispensation at the Writers' Buildings, both at the national and State levels, which would actually be an extremely short-sighted stratagem because, as Ms Mamata Banerjee herself found out in the 2011 polls, the people of West Bengal have a mind of their own. In particular, the confusion generated by the issue of whether foreign direct investment in retail was discussed between the Chief Minister and the Secretary of State smacked of an amateurishness, which, once again, has once exposed the general inexperience of the Trinamool Government in tackling such complex and sensitive issues of governance and, in this case, diplomacy. The coup de grace was to get the State Finance Minister involved in this murky business.

Come to think of it, the first anniversary of the Trinamool Government is around the corner and, just possibly, an effort was made to boost the image of the regime in the run-up to that event. However, the chances are that the Clinton overdrive could backfire given the problems the Chief Minister is already facing because of errant party members who have a habit of being the law unto themselves.

Referring to the “success” of the visit, the Chief Minister is reported to have said: “This is only the beginning.” The beginning of what, one may ask? Is it the beginning of a suicidal political fight with the Centre over funds, or the beginning of a welcome purge of her own party which will lead to the true fulfilment of the aspirations of the millions who provided her with the muscle to overturn 34 years of Left Front rule in the State?

Published on May 08, 2012

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