West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is back to her old habit of exciting her constituency by getting into conflicts and arm-twisting imagined adversaries, and this time she has taken on a highly respected constitutional body such as the Election Commission (EC).
The EC has the
standing practice of transferring, before elections, officials who have held certain offices for a length of time.
By challenging this, Ms Banerjee is simply playing with laid-down norms and procedures. The EC has ignored her challenge.
As chief minister, she should realise that she is preparing the soil for anarchy, which has the potential of upsetting governance in her own state. And if she has such a grouse about the practice that the EC follows, why didn’t she say that earlier when she was not in power, say, in 2011?
Merely saying that the Left Front was ruling the state then will not wash.
Ms Banerjee sparred with the state Election Commission last year over the scheduling of the panchayat polls.
Earlier she had forced the central government to rescind the railway budget after the railway minister of her own party, the Trinamool Congress, had presented it.
Unlike politicians who use the bandwagon of caste or religion, Ms Banerjee has chosen ‘region’ as her play theme and stoke provincial feelings from time to time.
It is undeniable that the relative economic backwardness of West Bengal has left its impact on the feelings and aspirations of its people.
It is this that she has always wished to cash in on. Her method of political engagement presupposes an enemy, whether it is a corporate conglomerate or the EC.
After having described the EC order "a conspiracy" of the Centre — the hobby-horse of politicians of West Bengal, regardless of party — she will have the chance of clubbing this with the issue of the central government not giving West Bengal the financial package she was bargaining for.
And in the end, she will have a ‘martyr status’, which she can then turn to good account in the assembly polls two years hence.
Every patriotic political party should understand — given the extent of corruption during elections — that trying to undercut the authority of the EC is tantamount to launching an attack on Indian democracy.
After all the EC has succeeded in making elections in India virtually violence-free, which is no mean achievement.
No longer do we hear of ‘scientific rigging’, something of which Ms Banerjee had so often accused the Left.
Hence her option now is just one: Allow the EC a free hand in conducting polls. Else, she too will have to face the question what her political stunts have done to the state.
It is the job of a leader to lead, not be the prisoner of her support base.
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