No place for populism

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on March 12, 2018

Ms Mamata Banerjee

In the course of the first-year anniversary celebrations of the Trinamool Congress Government in West Bengal, the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, declared in ringing tones: “We can and we will. Bengal will regain its lost glory. Bengal will once again emerge as the frontrunner. The idiom ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow' will once again ring true,” adding, “I work with everyone. I have no enemies. I appeal to those who have been critical to join our efforts to take the state forward. Don't shut down Bengal. Let the wheels of development roll,” she said.

No one can find fault with the Chief Minister as far as these sentiments are concerned. The plain fact is that West Bengal's position in the league table of states has declined during the past 35 years, which must be set right if its people are ever to see a return to the halcyon days when their part of the country was widely acclaimed to be among the most developed regions of free India.

Why and how the state declined is another complex story which is not the subject matter of this write-up.

The nature of the mandate which Mamata Banerjee was given last year, when she unseated the redoubtable Left Front, clearly showed that the people of West Bengal wanted change. Indeed, this was her rallying cry before and immediately after the State Assembly elections, which reflected the mood of the people and for which the electorate rewarded her with her famous victory.

But, of course, victory at the hustings could not have been the end of the electoral struggle. It could only be the beginning of the long march towards another dawn.

In the right direction?

When Mamata Banerjee became Chief Minister, she was given five years to do the job which, admittedly, is too short a time to change things around in a State whose economy had become moribund for all practical purposes. Even so, a beginning had to be made, and in the right direction.

Now, a year has passed, and the question to ask is whether Mamata Banerjee has been able to take the State in the right direction. The economic turnaround aimed at in West Bengal is a complex task because of a variety of reasons which must of necessity create its own hurdles in the way of progress.

There is ample evidence that Mamata Banerjee has already discovered this, the hope being that it has led to the recovery canvas being redrawn to take this major problem into account.

For the sake of the people of West Bengal, one wishes her Government every success in getting the State back on to a rapid growth path. But it has to be realised that there is no room for the heavy dose of populism she is intent on injecting into the recovery process if the goal set before her Government is to be attained. Among other things, taxes will have to be imposed to raise revenue and the old shibboleths of land, SEZ, etc, will have to be discarded if people at the grassroots level are to be happily employed and enriched.

Last but not least, she has to separate the chaff from the wheat among her own party members, a task that will probably be her most difficult test in the coming months.

Published on May 22, 2012

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