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Meet the PM, dear Mamata, don't waste the opportunity

By Shubham

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is one of those few prominent leaders of the country who has chosen to ignore a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi so far. But for how long? And moreover, who has given her the right to indulge in a personality clash with the prime minister at the expense of the welfare of her own state and its people?

Prioritising secondary issues

Banerjee is a chief minister who likes to conveniently overlook the grim realities of her states and prioritise shallow celebration which is of no substance. She prefers meeting people from the glamour world over administrative work, turns a blind eye to the police beating up innocent fans outside the cricket stadium (a dry apology is just nothing Ms Banerjee) and the endless deaths of children in a hospital in Malda every year. The list is too long and doesn't need a fresh mention here but Banerjee has painted a sorry picture of the state which had brought her to the power with lots of hope and expectation three years ago.

Predecessors opposed Centre, Mamata opposes Modi

However, when it comes to putting up a unfriendly attitude towards Modi, the chief minister of West Bengal has taken great pride in continuing the tradition which her predecessors of the once mighty Left had followed, i.e., to fuel Bengali sentiments against the 'injustice' of the Centre. Banerjee's innovation is that she has targetted an individual more than the party or government.

The disrespect that her party had shown to two BJP leaders, who died recently, by not attending their last journeys is a reflection of a culture of hatred which was intensified by the BJP's good performance in West Bengal in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election. And since Modi was the face of the BJP in this election, he became a natural target of Banerjee's ire.

[Read: Won't allow Modi to become PM even if he gets majority, says Mamata]

[Read: Would have sent Modi to jail had I been in Delhi, says Mamata]

Other CMs have met Modi for their states, Didi hasn't

But can the people of West Bengal accept the approach of their state government towards the Centre? Chief ministers like Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik too have ideological differences with the BJP but they didn't forget to meet the prime minister after his victory. Even a staunch Modi critic like Nitish Kumar expressed hope that the former would deliver as the PM. Every quarter is eyeing a new beginning once the tainted UPA has departed but Banerjee is allowing the opportunity go waste.

An SRK can wait, the future of Bengal can't

The chief minister of West Bengal hasn't bothered to meet or greet the prime minister, despite knowing it very well that she has to co-exist with him for the next few years which are very crucial for her own political future. The more time she wastes by delaying a talk with the Centre on the development of her state, the more her own electorate suffers. A Shah Rukh Khan can wait but not her state, which is facing an uncertain future from all counts. Can irresponsibility be better defined?

Bengal's long history of anti-Centrism: An analysis

West Bengal's ruling elite is a prisoner of the past. The communists had chosen a collision course vis-a-vis the Centre to mobilise the Bengali sub-nationalism to cement its political grip in the state but allowed the state to collapse economically. The communists targetted the Centre for every problem Bengal had faced and blamed it for the state's industrial decline. The Left's anti-Centre project even found support in the hostility that the Bengali middle-class had towards the northern and Gandhian nationalist tradition.

The sympathy for icon Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who had perished in the fight with Gandhi strengthened the antipathy towards the Centre and the Left opportunists made full use of this negative energy to cling on to power for over three decades.

Mamata has carried the Left's legacy forward, albeit in a crude manner

The upper-caste Brahmins, Vaishyas and Kayasthas dominated the middle-class Bhadralok castes that formed the base of parties like the Congress and Left and since the elite in Bengal lost their association with the land as a result of policies of the colonial masters and shifted to other professions, hence leaving the ruling elite (Bhadralok) detached from the interests of agriculture and industry.

The elite remained a non-productive one and only harboured radical thoughts with little focus on the real issues like economic development and the continuation of this pattern over decades has taken the state nowhere in an era when ideology is dead and finance is everything.

Mamata has carried on with the tradition though in a crude way

Banerjee has carried forward a tradition in which she has grown, albeit in a crude manner. The vicious circle is difficult to break but unless that is done, there is no meaning of a paribartan. Modi will be happy to welcome Banerjee as he had always expressed his admiration for her as a hard-working politician.

But Banerjee is caught up with an artificial obstinacy at the moment and she is happy to remain so.

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