What is Mamata Banerjee doing? It's just a year and three months since she came to power in West Bengal riding a massive mandate. It was indeed a historic occasion for she had dethroned the Left Front after 34 long years.
Her party, the Trinamool Congress, has an absolute majority in the state assembly and politically a perfectly safe force to effect real changes on ground. But what's she has been doing since May last year when she formally took oath as the chief minister, is simply pathetic. It seems Mamata is frittering away a huge mandate and West Bengal might have to wait for ages before it gets another golden opportunity to initiate some change in fortune.
'Paribartan' for the worse?
'Paribartan' (change) in West Bengal has occurred for the worse. The rotting Left Front rule had seriously undermined the state's traditional strongholds, like education and agriculture. Politicisation of each and every aspect of the social life, even the individual sphere, ensured that Bengal's glory was shamelessly sacrificed for mediocrity and a poor political culture.
Lack of economic development left political allegiance as the only alternative for survival and by nurturing a battalion of loyalists in almost every important position, the CPI(M) maintained a tight grip on the society and a non-transparent political culture, helped by a fragmented opposition, further strengthened its grip.
There was virtually no scope to challenge the monolithic block that was created by the Left Front and Bengal continued to suffer. A historically-eclipsed ideology also prevented forces of an emerging economy to enter the state. Education and English and training in computer were systematically ignored.
This went on making the Left's own strong base brittle till it finally crumbled in 2011. The election marked the official ending of a process, which had already set into force many years ago. Had Bengal continued for another twenty years under the Left rule, the society would have surely imploded. The consequences of such an eventuality would be disastrous.
Mamata saved the day for Bengal
Mamata Banerjee, the only creditable anti-Left voice, had saved the day for the state. Sensing the Left was in trouble, she attacked it not only from below by capitalising on the former's ill-deeds in sectors like agriculture (this was ironical indeed for it was by means of land reforms that the Left had consolidated its position a few decades ago), but also from the Centre where she took over as the railway minister. She successfully stormed the Left bastion and vowed to build on its ruins.
But what after winning?
But now, after just over a year since she took charge, it looks that she totally lacks a viable formula to undo the Left's misdeeds and steer the state towards a better future. A firebrand politician, who was known for her pro-people stance when in opposition, is increasingly turning out into a leader who does not actually care for individual liberty and welfare.
Mamata doesn't care for individual liberty
This is a serious drawback in Mamata's politics as an administrator. As a democratic ruler, one must attach importance to the idea of individual liberty and equality. She might be a mass leader, more so while in opposition, but when in power, you must respect a person's individuality. Here, we see Mamata has an ironic similarity with the Left Front, which during its heydays, always tried to undermine individual liberty. But being a communist force, it is understandable that the Left can do so. But why is Mamata, who is the only face of her party, influenced by a similar ideology?
Life-long confrontation key for such intolerance?
This is might be because all her life she was all engaged in politics of confrontation. She was assaulted by the state machinery quite a few times for opposing a tough regime and each blow perhaps made all the more belligerent to hit back at the 'enemy'. And today, even though that big enemy is gone, Mamata's old habit hasn't. The confrontation has now become one between her and the civil society, with the media playing a facilitator in the conflict.
The leader must understand that taking any stand is bound to create differences, more so when she is the delivering end, but if that rattles her perception of things and she starts to see evil in anybody disagreeing with her, then the problem is set to multiply. This is going on for some time in West Bengal and more the media are finding an entertainment in Mamata's unusual behaviour, the confrontation is turning even worse.
Little option for the people of Bengal
The problem with Bengal's politics is that there are very few options for the people to find a viable orientation. Ideology, naturally, gets sacrificed under such a situation and is replaced by an 'us' and 'them' distinction.
Once the huge monolithic structure of the Left crumbled, the opposite force wasted no time to fill in the vacuum and amid this sense of an hard-earned victory, upholding issues like individual welfare has clearly been ignored. The honeymoon period for defeating the Left continues with the leader at helm believing that it's only her party/government that can serve the people. Lack of a democratic culture in the last 34 years explain the arrogance of the political class.
But how will it serve the people really without actually taking cognisance of the fact that the state took a serious beating for not allowing English and computer education, that there is no saleable growth in either agriculture or economy, that unemployment is forcing ambitious people to desert the state?
But the current government is convinced that its base is a solid block and it can just arouse a sense of Bengali assertiveness, if it really can not feed its people. This is something similar to the Left's strategy.
Mamata Banerjee can afford to waste five years and may also win another term in 2016, albeit with a reduced majority, but the bigger concern is: if she goes on like the Left, who basically did nothing for the state after a point of time, then Bengal will be headed again towards an implosion. Mamata had saved Bengal earlier, who will save it if she fails?