Friday, August 24, 2012

Mamata's money demands


Let’s get one thing clear: no one, but no one requested, cajoled, blackmailed, begged or forced Ms. Mamata Banerjee to become the chief minister of West Bengal. It was absolutely her own decision and her own achievement, first and last. She fought for the chair tooth and nail, achieving what had seemed an impossible task. The financial condition of this state was never a big secret. She knew very well what she was getting into. She was fighting to wear what was no more than a crown of thorns.
She did not “inherit the enormous debt and a state in such dire circumstances”. The baggage that she carries today was consciously taken on by her – if fact, she waged a long war for it. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that she has “no choice” (Stolen March, Telegraph, 23 July) but to use “a combination of cajoling, threats or entreaties”, or beg for doles from New Delhi. She walked into this mess with her eyes open; she can very well walk away from it if she so desires. She has a choice – one always has.
She is in her chair for more than a year now. Her choice was to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors, or chart a new course to develop the state (ask Bihar). Sadly, she appears to have chosen the former. She continues with populist measures even if these continue to drain the coffers of the state. She seems to believe more in gimmicks (read trident street lights, blue paint, renaming stations and water tanks) than hard core development for sustained, medium and long term gains. She could have taken a leaf out of the books of Bihar or UP. She still can, she still has a choice. However, she cannot have her cake and eat it too. The sooner she realises this, the better for her.
Hardly one year into her reign, she complains about nothing but fiscal deficits. The lady doth protest too much, I wonder why! If the Left Front government could live with the pathetic state of West Bengal for 34 years, surely so can she! She could continue the way her predecessors had, or start right away on the path to painful, un-populist but badly needed reforms. She still has a choice, but her time is running out.

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