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W Bengal & Tamil Nadu Poll:TWO DAMSELS STORM TO POWER,Dhurjati Mukherjee, 25 May, 2011 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 25 May 2011

W Bengal & Tamil Nadu Poll


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


The resounding victories of Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee  in West Bengal and AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu in the recent elections has demonstrated that the people have voted for change.


The victory of Mamata is significant not only because it brought to an ignominious end 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal but also the people were fed up of the lack of governance, appalling conditions in the health and education sectors, large-scale corruption of the CPI (M) cadres, indifferent attitude towards farmers and threat of land acquisition at below market rates for industrial development by private parties. Shockingly, the CPM was more powerful than the Government wherein most orders were dictated from the Party headquarters.


True, the outgoing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya admitted his Government’s mistakes, vowed to rectify them and control the Party cadres, if voted to power but the people were in no mood to listen and give another term to the Stalinist method of functioning of the Left Front.


Importantly, the Singur and Nandigram movements against land acquisition, spearheaded by Mamata with support from intellectuals, civil society activists and Maoists was the turning point in the Left Front’s fortunes.  Reinforced by the TMC winning 19 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections followed by gaining control in key municipalities. Whereby, Mamata was seen as the harbinger of a new Bengal. Clearly, her uncanny ability to connect with the people and understand their problems worked wonders.  


Undoubtedly, the State needed a new approach to infrastructural development, both physical and social, as also a clean and transparent Administration geared to serve the interests of the poor, economically weaker sections, OBCs and tribals.  The State needed to attract investments which were not forthcoming compared to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Orissa.  

In Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi’s DMK lost credibility after Raja’s involvement in the 2G spectrum scandal. It was widely believed that the State’s First Family was a beneficiary of the scam and Raja was only acting on behalf of Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi, both now in jail. Obviously, the Congress was left with no option but to swallow the bitter graft pill against its ally and keep its ties afloat as the support of the DMK MPs was vital to keep the Central Government in tact. 


Significantly, Jayalalithaa demolished the theory that public resentment against the DMK “family rule” and its corrupt misdeeds was restricted to urban areas instead it transcended to rural areas as well. Even freebies like rice at Rs 1 per kg, free medical insurance for the poor and a housing scheme for the under-privileged failed to blunt the ruling Party’s misdeeds. It was thus quite obvious that the electorate refused to allow the DMK another term thanks to the Jayalalithaa promise and her capability for good governance.


Undeniably, both Mamata and Jayalalithaa have been rewarded for their determination and courage in fighting their political adversaries. In the case of the former, she relentlessly carried out the movement for change against the powerful CPM and the people joined en masse. Even intellectuals, who were with the Left in the previous Assembly elections, started working for her. Creditable for a leader from humble background to have emerged victorious solely through her efforts against an organized and cadre-based parties of the Left Front.    


What are the people’s expectations in these two States? Political analysts feel that the Government should be above the Party. In Bengal, the Leninist model needs to make way for infrastructural development, better hospitals and health care centres, more resources for tribal areas and non interference of Party cadres in administrative matters, right down to the panchayats. Impetus is needed for employment-oriented education and increasing agricultural productivity, which has plummeted to 7.8 per cent in recent months from 17 per cent during 1965-.

In Tamil Nadu, physical infrastructure development is a key issue along-with corruption-free Administration, improvement of slums and squatter settlements and financial and fiscal reconstruction.


Needless to say, the challenge before Mamata is indeed quite severe as the State’s economy is in shambles. West Bengal has the highest debts as a percentage of the GDP at 40.8 per cent and the total outstanding liabilities are around Rs 1.98 lakh crores. Add to this, a poor tax collection compared to Maharashtra. Andhra, Tamil Nadu, UP etc. Meanwhile around 90 per cent of the revenue is eaten up by interest payments. According to economist, Prof. Abhirup Sarkar, the first priority would be to shore up revenue mobilization though better tax administration and crackdown on corrupt practices.

Though many industrialists have promised large-scale investments in the State, only time will tell what actually happens in Bengal’s rejuvenation. This is not all. Mamata needs to spell out a separate action plan for rural and urban sectors as also for tribals and minorities. Development projects in the rural hinterland are vital along-with rapid industrialization. The State’s shabby towns need a makeover to attract investment and tourism. 


In sum, the two women Chief Ministers have there task cut-out. An uphill task to say the least which can only be achieved with generous support from the Union Finance Ministry, RBI and Planning Commission. For Trinamool’s stormy petrel this should not be a problem because the Congress would like to keep Mamata happy. As far as Tamil Nadu’s Purtha Thalaivi Jayalalithaa is concerned, the State does not face any major financial problem though people have high expectations for a clean and efficient Administration as also faster growth and development. ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)







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