Bengal loses to UP; Mamata loyalists happy though

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A pro-Mamata Bengali newspaper published an article on Monday that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's support base was getting stronger with each passing day and that she was leading the state in its journey towards huge development. The article has been written by a well-known journalist, who is also an MP of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

What made the Page One write-up look all the more ridiculous is that was published a day after the three-day 'Partnership Summit 2013' kicked off in Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The connection between the two is that this same summit was supposed to be held in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, but was shifted by the Congress-led government at the Centre after Banerjee walked out from the UPA in September last year. The reason: Banerjee was furious with the Centre's 'anti-poor policies' like backing FDI in retail.


Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the Centre could not take the risk of inviting investors to a state where the power-holders were openly protesting against foreign investment. As a result, the state which had thought of witnessing a historical change in 2011 by voting Banerjee and her brigade to power, lost an occasion to reach out to the world to Agra. The three-day summit will see representatives from 45 countries taking part in it. After Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh too went away with the accolades.

Bengal, which just managed to stage a pathetic show called 'Bengal Leads' a few days ago, remained in the dark. Yet, Banerjee and her loyalists continue to live like an ostrich.

A section of the industrialists rued that Kolkata and Bengal missed a golden opportunity to showcase themselves in front of the world. UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav grabbed the opportunity with both hands and assured the investors on the first day that his government would make industry-friendly policies and back investment initiatives.

The question is: Even if the summit was held in Kolkata, could the Banerjee administration take any advantage? One doubts. It is not clear if Banerjee is at all interested in industrial development of her state, irrespective of all the feel-good talks. The chief minister equates industry with creative art may be because she doesn't know the economics, is reluctant to take land for or grant special status to big firms for she knows without knowing the economy properly, any wrong step would only endanger her populist politics. The leader is more comfortable in courting people from the entertainment industry than speaking on issues that are crucial for the state.

The leader has also sacrificed her own state in the name of pro-people ideology. Akhilesh's party has also opposed the Centre on various issues time and again but never allowed things to go to a point of no return where his own state's interest would suffer. Banerjee has little concern for people but the hollow populism that has served her in the past. But now even that weapon seems to get blunted because of over-use.

Former CM Buddhadeb Bhattarcharjee, while blasting the TMC government 's industria pilicy (if there is any) and mocked by asking whether the investors would come to Bengal a relentless insanity. Left leaders are gaining ground to attack Banerjee, claiming that not a single inductry has come to the state after their departure in 2011. A couple of damp squibs in New Delhi and Haldia, putting a business meet in Mumbai on hold or the recent exit of a firm from the state due to political reasons have been piling up on Bengal's agony. And it is pretty clear that Banerjee, who was once labelled as anti-industry because of her strong opposition to the Tata Nano factory in Singur, is not bothered to script a turnaround.

Forget competing with Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, for the time being, is competing with the Left.

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