Thursday, September 20, 2012

Populist Politics of Poverty




In the month of Sep, 2012 fire brand Mamata Banerjee, leader of Trinamool Congress (TMC) decided to withdraw support from the ruling UPAII government at the centre. This happened after central  government led by Dr. Man Mohan Singh introduced a slew of reforms, like raising diesel fuel price, reducing subsidy of cooking gas,  bringing FDI in multibrand retail and FDI in aviation sector.  Ms. Banerjee claimed such measures are antipoor and these measures were taken without consulting her party. Decision of Ms. Banerjee had effectively put government into a position of minority in parliament and emboldend opposition parties like Bhartiya Janata Party and other allies of UPAII that were giving outside support to the government.



Many said Mamata Banerjee is one of the few honest and genuine political leaders, while others call her headstrong and visionless. In the name of poor people, it is believed, she is trying to keep Indian people in perpetual poverty. This is poverty of vision. Didi tolerated numerous scams, 2G, CWG, coalgate and others, that tumbled out of UPAII closet. So her claim of UPAII being corrupt when she did not get her way, sounds hollow.

Didi protested against FDI in retail, citing common peoples interest in mind, an issue she did not even have to implement in her state. Unless didi is assuming the role of chief minister / leader of greater Eastern India, this issue remains non issue from West Bengal point of view. On the point of fuel price hike,  didi could have extended relief to her state by reducing state tax. Infact governments of Delhi and Bihar did exactly that. Didi claimed, may be rightly so, West Bengal state's financial position is not as strong as that of other states. However, as chief minister of the state, it is imperative that she must do everything to manage her states finances. One solution could be raising revenue and reducing subsidy.

There is no doubt didi is one of the most transparent leaders in Indian political scenario. However, politics is not only about  bluster and bravado, but actually getting things done without ruffling feathers. If West Bengal is dependent on centre for running projects and programmes in the state, how is quitting UPA II going to help West Bengal's cause? May be didi wanted to distance herself from scam tainted UPAII anyway. The FDI in retail and fuel price hike gave her the perfect reason t Only history will tell if Mamata Banerjee did the right thing walking out of UPA II on an issue that she could have managed from her end. o get out of the alliance. She may win in Bengal, but she made every possible effort that India lost. Finally, she is not all that transparent after all!

On a bigger issue, Indian economy is not doing well. Not only slow down in Europe and USA have affected Indian economy, unraveling of scam after scam have further dented investor confidence on Indian growth story.  India has large young population and very number of poor people. For India to spend on social sectors, for India to provide jobs to her young citizens, India needs investment and India needs with growth. Without investment, all Mamata Banerjee professes in support of poor, comes to nothing. There will be no money left for social sector spending.

From this point of view, many felt it is good that Mamata has left. If government manages to survive, without compromising its position on key decisions made last week, it will be good for India. If government falls, at least they fought for what they believed in. If subsidy would help India's poor people, for whom Mamata Banerjee staked her position in UPA II, then India will have a strong middle class after 60 years of subsidy. Though initial handholding is good, but people eventually have to come out of poverty through their own hardwork and enterprise. Look at the state of West Bengal after 30 years of subsidy culture during left front rule. Mamata Banerjee is the victim of that culture and also the product. Yet she would rather come with a begging bowl to Delhi but not embrace reform measures. Is it any surprise, West Bengal cannot attract industry, is it not sad that people can only aspire to be a government servant in West Bengal. There is poverty of thought and vision, and didi through her populist policies is further fuelling such thought process. This is not the land were Swami Vivekananda has proclaimed "Arise Awake and Stop not till the Goal is Achieved".




timesofindia.indiatimes.com
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the FDI decision was unveiled to divert attention from the coal blocks allocation controversy involving the govt.
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