Reboot "Poriborton": Mamata Banerjee V 2.0
Mamata Banerjee has surprised supporters and confounded opponents and critics alike by her historic victory. Though this writer could legitimately claim an “I told you so” moment — truth be told even he had a twinkling of doubt as the counting-day approached. Planted leaks in the guise of “Satta Bazaar” quotes and alleged Government Intelligence inputs created an air of uncertainty. Exit Polls, barring one, made guarded predictions of a Trinamool win by a slender margin. Mamata Banerjee herself went into a contemplative retreat and the usually vocal members of her party appeared to be on recess.
Finally, when Mamata emerged from the inner sanctum of her Kalighat home yesterday — she was a picture of composure that one has not often seen in the past. She addressed the media with moderation and maturity that would well behove an incumbent Prime Minister’s “victory speech” — of course, peppered with a few humble howlers like “Bengal is a CORRUPTION FREE state”. Clearly, a new, refreshed Mamata Banerjee 2.0 is all set for a re-launch.
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal and head of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), greets party activists near her residence in Kolkata on May 19, 2016. PIC/AFP.
Mamata Banerjee’s ambition cannot — and should not — be limited to being a second or multi-term Chief Minister of West Bengal. She is also not cut in the mold of a Jayalalitha or Naveen Patnaik — content to play kingmaker while being the emperor (or empress) in their far corner of the world. Having come a long way from being a street-fighter — she is more in the league of a Nitish, Mulayam, Lalu (in which, Kejriwal is a wannabe gatecrasher). So to be ready for the “Finals” in 2019 — in which, Nitish already has a head start — she needs to get cracking immediately.
Mamata Banerjee’s first challenge will be to rein in the euphoria of her party cadres over this epic victory — which even they could not have imagined. Simultaneously, the wings of the local Trinamool satraps (especially those — who were becoming a liability) have to be clipped early and they have to be made to understand the electorate has voted for Mamata Banerjee in all 284 constituencies and not for any or even the strongest and most popular among them. At this juncture, Mamata can scarcely afford a descent like Bihar’s slow but stead slide back to “jungle-raj” — which will put her in a handicap even before the race starts.
But, the most important item on her agenda has to be the Economy — which holds the key for much that ails West Bengal today. Job creation can no longer be outsourced to “syndicates”. Banking should be given back to Bankers from chit-fund barons and pada “Dadas” relieved of their responsibility for “Tax” (‘Tola’) collection.
Calcutta and Bengal first grew as a trading centre. The descendants of Jagat Seth know enough about Commerce — to have to rely on nefarious cross-border operators. Bengal’s famous Gobinda-Bhog Rice should get precedence over illegal Poppy cultivation in Malda.
Above all, the lumpen proletariat she inherited from the Left regime must realize the real “money-machines” are industry and not potable fake currency printing presses. Now, with a stronger than ever mandate it is time for her to “bite the bullet” on land acquisition policy. But, if Mamata choses to wait till 2019, Bengal would once again have missed the bus. On the other hand, a few big quick wins can change mood of the state and she can ride the wave of optimism to garner a large cache of Lok Sabha seats — to make her a formidable stakeholder in any national political formulation.
Prior to that — what has to be set right is the infamous “work culture” of Bengal. Before, industry finds its new roots — the service industry can get a boost. Gujarat is not just — Sanand. Ahmedabad today is a premier Health-care destination, as indeed Pune, Bangalore and Manipal are for education. The concept of “quality” has to be re-injected into the Bengali DNA — that must be all pervasive from construction of fly-overs to running efficient hospitals, schools and colleges.
To move to Delhi, Mamata Banerjee will need to put her house in order at the state level. An Abhishek cannot be an Akhilesh — at least as yet. She would do well to empower colleagues with proven track-record like Subrata Mukherjee in the government — while letting Mukul Roy manage the party, which would also provide a good check and balance. Will she?
Mamata Banerjee is too canny a politician not to realize she is destined to play a much bigger role in national politics. And, she is not the kind to ruin her prospects by playing the wrong cards.
In these elections, she has created history and now it is her chance to leave a mark in history.