Centre's warning to Bengal: Narendra Modi read things right

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Narendra Modi and Jairam Ramesh
Bangalore, April 9: It was not surprising that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the Centre's discrimination against non-UPA states during his address in Kolkata on Tuesday. The Centre's vindictive approach towards Mamata Banerjee ever since she withdrew from the UPA government in September last year doesn't speak well for a regime which has been trying to establish a pro-poor image in its decade-long rule.

The Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh duo claimed to have worked in favour of an inclusive economic growth with a liberal orientation but there are instances when the government's economic ideology has been allowed to be eclipsed by evil political ploy. West Bengal is one such state which has fallen a helpless victim of a game which has actually been aimed at cornering Banerjee in the political amphitheatre.

New Delhi didn't bother for once that West Bengal has a significant strategic location and its well-being is important for the well-being of the eastern part of the country and its surroundings. Instead, it preferred engaging Banerjee in a petty political tussle which will ultimately lead to nothing but further alienation of the Trinamool-ruled state.

A clever politician like Modi understood the signals and made an open appeal to the non-UPA forces to join hands and rise against the Centre's discrimination. Modi's development model in Gujarat is also taunted often by the Congress-led Centre.

The latest instance of the Centre's revengeful stand towards Banerjee's Bengal was evident when Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh warned that funds for rural job scheme would not be transferred to the state if the panchayat polls are not held on time. The state government and the state election commission are at loggerheads over conducting the rural polls in the state and the dispute has gone to the court for settlement.

The Union minister found a good opportunity in the poll fiasco to put pressure on the state government. It may be noted here that it was the same Ramesh who had called up the Bengal state panchayat minister a few days ago and told them about the Centre's eagerness to help the state in terms of rural funds. He even tried to bridge the growing gap between the Congress and Mamata Banerjee. The Congress-led government was facing a survival crisis then after the DMK pulled out of the UPA on the Sri Lankan issue.

The question is: What has the central funds allocation has to do with panchayat polls? It is true that the panchayat bodies form an important part in decentralisation and distribution of funds but that does not mean that the funds will not be provided if there is no panchayat election. Resolving the matter calls for legal steps and not political blackmail.

Ramesh must understand that allocation of these funds does not depend on Centre's political relation with the states but follow the spirit of democratic decentralisation. Ramesh's warning at a public rally in northern Bengal, where the mood recently is more against Banerjee, showed that he was speaking more as a Congress politician and not a minister concerned for the betterment of subjects related to his department.

No panchayat poll has been held in Andhra Pradesh for a decade now but yet the central funds for that state didn't dry up, despite similar warnings given by Ramesh, who himself is also elected from the southern state. It is just because the Congress itself is also in power in that state and a chief minister like the late YSR Rajashekhara Reddy, who was close to the party's top leadership, never allowed this to become an issue. Even his successors managed to keep the funds flowing. Then why suddenly Ramesh is raising the pitch of his voice that extra bit when it comes to West Bengal? His words have no moral sanction.

This is where the Congress's stereo-type politics doesn't deliver any more today. The average people of this country have become tired of the politicised economy which the conventional parties promote. Politicians like Narendra Modi fill up this vacuum for they speak and mean business, at least till now. Riots don't matter for the common man today, his well-being does.

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