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Comeuppance soon?


Giant killer Mamata Banerjee managed to uproot the entrenched Left from Bengal, but has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since then. This is a good example of how brilliant tactical generals don’t always make great strategists at Headquarters. The Trinamool leader could rise through decades of struggle to the desired position, but is now having difficulty coping with success.
Of course, the condition of the state is miserable after what the Left has done with it. There is no such thing as modern governance and the people of Bengal would have realised it much earlier if they had not been caught up in the illusion of their intellectual superiority and believed they could not be wrong in their choices. However, instead of concentrating on rebuilding the ramshackle administration, Banerjee seems more concerned with ‘image’ management. This reveals a fear of the Left’s ability to make a comeback through the same agitational means adopted by her. In fact, she ought to have greater confidence in the people’s desire for good governance and development.
Her approach to anything that goes wrong is, first, denial and, then, bluster. Whatever the crisis, and there have been many, she has failed to see things in perspective and connect them with the political legacy she has inherited from decades of Left rule, of which considerable evidence has already emerged. Instead, she considers the failures a reflection on her rule. She needs to realise that the people are more than willing to give her time, as well as benefit of the doubt.
Nobody understands Bengal politics more than her, or the way in which the Congress led UPA is to be dealt with, but mere politicking is not the be all and end all of exercising power. As it is, she has an enormous challenge ahead of her, even if the rivalry with the Left were to be discounted. The fact that the Trinamool seems to adopting the same tactics that the Left did during its regime does not augur well for the future. Along with her cohorts, Mamata is clearly riding roughshod over her opponents, civil servants and the media. The enormous embarrassment she has had to face in the recent case of rape is an example, where she took a completely indefensible stand that lacked not only sensitivity, but also political acumen.
She has come with the promise of changing the life of the people of the state, in particular, to provide employment to the increasing number of youth. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of things to be done first, such as building bridges with the greatly alienated Industry. To make things worse, the extreme and impolitic positions that she took when out of power are coming in the way of providing the necessary incentives that would attract investment back to the state. She is proving a good example of what should be done with those who have made a living off making grand promises while in the opposition – they should be given the opportunity to take responsibility and held to them. (It would be interesting to see, for instance, what Rahul Gandhi actually does if he becomes Prime Minister, after having promised everything, and the moon, during his UP campaign.)
There is still time for Mamata to get her act together. There has to be a lot less grandstanding on national and international issues, and a lot more application to matters closer home. She has been Chief Minister for a while and, yet, there is little news about steps taken to restructure and revitalise the administration. One reason could be that she is neither paying attention, nor delegating to the several men of ability in her team. It would be a national tragedy if the situation develops to the point that the Left recovers political legitimacy merely because Mamata was busy tilting at windmills. The fight has already begun with the trade unions’ strike only the first move in the comeback attempt.