Editor's Desk

Challenges before the new government

Going by the popular mood and pre poll predictions, Mamata Banerjee led TMC government is set to come back in West Bengal after completing its first successful tenure. According to TV surveys, the TMC is expected to win more than 180 seats out of a total of 294. Mamata's decade long fight against the well organized party CPI (M) and its allies had finally helped her achieve her long cherished goal of toppling the Left Front government. During the last five years, her popularity does not seem to wane though the party's internal infighting has caused disappointment among the masses and the opposition has tried to exploit this disappointment. The opposition had realized that the populist programmes taken by Mamata Banerjee will win her next term of government. Therefore, they forged a coalition. This might make a dent of her support base. Mamata Banerjee's first tenure has been marked by financial scandals like Sharada and Narada but in both the cases though her lieftenants were alleged to be involved, she emerged unscathed. This strengthened the belief of the masses that whatever the integrity or lack of it her colleagues might have, she is not corrupt. The flyover collapse case also gave her opponents some handle as allegations of corruption and involvement of her party leaders also came up, the results will only show that the corruption issue has impacted the voters' will to vote for her or not.
It is also true that the organizational weakness of the TMC has allowed Hindutva and communal elements rear their head in the state. It's an irony that though the red bastion was reduced to a sand castle, the BJP which had no existence during the Left Front has grown rapidly. With it, its other affiliates like Durga Bahini (which took an active role in Gujarat riots) and Vishva Hindu Parishad have reared their heads in the state causing concern among the peace loving secular masses of the state.
The way TMC had swept the last elections nullifying the Left in the state showed that the masses of the Left and wanted a change, these elections show that the masses don't want the repressive and exploitative years of the Left government. Though the law and order situation has worsened a bit but overall the people have expressed their faith in the TMC government as it has delivered some economic and ideological relief to them. Populist measures like provision of cheap food grain, employment generation in civil and police departments, distribution of bicycles to high school students and scholarships to millions of students have won her public support that is expected to turn into votes. Mamata government was also successful in controlling the price rise in the state. Kanyasri Project under which more than 8 lakh unmarried girls benefited by the onetime grant of Rs 25000.The project won the state international recognition by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF.
On the minority front too, her report card is better as compared to other so-called secular states. Her government gave pension to imams and muezzins and declared Urdu the second official language in Urdu majority blocks of the state though it was only a half measure as practically the order has not been implemented and Urdu needs to be made the second official language of the entire state, not in some blocks.
The establishment of the Alia University, a better Hajj management, increased budget allocation to the West Bengal Urdu Academy etc were some of the highlights of the TMC government.
Therefore, the government seems to be working for the benefit of the masses and for the development of the state. The state has also taken initiatives towards industrial and financial progress by wooing big industrialists to the state.
However, the government has a lot more to do on the law and order front and on the political front as recently number of political skirmishes has increased. The two major political parties, the TMC and the CPI (M) have clashed which has resulted in loss life and property. If the law and order is not tightened, the post poll scenario may look bloodied with more clashes between the ruling and the opposition parties. Both CPI (M) and TMC have taken aggressive postures against each other. While Mamata's nephew Abhishek Banerjee has threatened to 'see' the opposition after the elections, the CPI (M) leader Md Salim has threatened the opponents with killing them selectively if the Left came to power.
In short, if the government wants to maintain the momentum of constructive work and the atmosphere of peace, it should deal with corruption with an iron hand. The Chief Minister should also give a serious thought to curbing the internal differences within her party.