Iron Lady in the neighbourhood! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 03, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, October 09, 2016


Iron Lady in the neighbourhood!

Belying speculations at the anti Trinamool camp for a 'vote for change' like the West Bengalees accounted for in 2011, Mamata has swept to a second term with a powerful mandate. 

The news is a little old now but the inside stories are unfolding in captivating detail. The Left thought that the 'upright stance of the state police' was indicative of 'winds of change'. But they were unmindful of the 152 rural seats where Mamata government was riding on the beneficiaries of its welfare schemes – Kanyashree, Yuvashree, Sabuj Sathi (bicycle for students from poor families) and rice at Rs 2 a kilo for six crore people.

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Going by a Times News Network item, within 48 hours before Mamata took oath, 'as many as 30 senior officers including 14 from the IAS and 16 from IPS, were moved out of their posts to make room for the trusted lot'. 

A strong statement that: The bureaucracy no longer functioned under the Election Commission and that the new government was not obliged to carry out the poll panel's baggage. 

Mamata also reinstated or gave new roles to ministers and party stalwarts who were defeated in the polls. 

The democratic moral of the story is that while the Election Commission and the poll panel did their job in earnest; Mamata strengthened by the people's mandate promptly reasserted her position. 

Next five years of Mamata would see priority on industrialisation, youth focus with job creation and land and land reform. Given the importance of land for industry, the CM has kept the portfolio in her own hands. 

The ministerial council has 18 fresh faces, three women, seven belong to the Muslim community, while the Scheduled Caste and tribe communities are also part of it.

It's worthwhile to note that having handled its “blue-collar” vote bank well enough, Trinamool now wants to focus on the “white-collar” sectors – higher education IT, industry and law. This in order to shore up its support base among the urban, educated upper and middle classes.

Bangladesh's expectation centres on Mamata's cooperation in resolving Teesta river water sharing issue and those of some common rivers. She knows all the ropes and we keep reposing trust in her as she had advised us to on a trip to Dhaka. Also, we flag the concern as a lower riparian state over the ongoing, off-going reportage on river linking projects in the upper reaches of India. 

A changing dynamic in a couple of potential equations in relations between the centre and West Bengal, or for that matter, some other states could have a positive impact on some of our outstanding problems with India – courtesy of good humoured interstate relations. 

“Mamata Banerjee” wrote Meghdeep Bhattacharyya from Kolkata on May 27,  “kept the 'federal front' pot simmering today by drawing to her swearing-in heavy weight regional leaders but she did not take an overtly anti-BJP stand with the Lok Sabha polls still three years away.” The title of the report Tea and sympathy, served with prudence, captured the mood aptly.

The Chief Minister needed the centre's support to run the government in Bengal. Arun Jaitley, the Union finance minister from BJP, scoffed earlier on at the hint of a front: 'It is a tried, tested and failed idea'. He, however, spoke of Modi's constructive federalism. Perhaps sounding somewhat utopian, he emphasised that whilst parties are opposed to each other, the governments needn't be.

The second tipping point lies in West Bengal having an issue of debt relief with the centre, a legacy said to be of 34-year old Left rule. Jaitley granted that it would be a big challenge to revive the state's economy in that context and that 'the centre is ready to support, irrespective of the political character of the government.' 

Then we may have to contend with BJP making debut in NE  through Sonowal assuming charge in Assam. The new CM vows to rid the state of immigrants. Optimists tend to see it as a pre-election rhetoric which may outlive its original intensity after the polls. But the RSS hasn't pulled its punches in reacting to the victory being a verdict against an appeasement policy.

In the end, it is of no less importance that we cite a little-churned statistic that will help us to a perspective. US $446 crore remitted from expatriate Indians in Bangladesh as against US $ 11 crore 40 lakh from India to Bangladesh (Source: Bilateral Remittance Data 2015, World Bank).

The writer is a contributor of The Daily Star. Email:


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