Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee’s plan to oust the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from its last bastion is at the core of the “social viability” criteria she cited while announcing projects for West Bengal and other parts.
West Bengal, where the CPM is in power for some 32 years, is due for assembly elections in 2011.
Her “social viability versus economic viability” theme can be traced to the days when her party led the opposition to projects in Nandigram and Singur. The campaign emerged as a symbol of protest against the Left than liberalisation.
Today, as she also realises, Bengal needs thousands of new jobs, better schools, hospitals and institutes that’ll provide job-earning skills.
She intends just to do that and that too before the assembly polls, something the Left Front government failed to do in all these years, said Trinamool MPs who kept receiving SMSes from their constituencies throughout the day.
Banerjee will revive/take over sick units such as the 228-year-old Burn Standard and Braithwaite, once a symbol of Bengal's engineering prowess, launch new projects under by unlocking land under the Railways, improve schools and hospitals. The idea is to show how she can perform where the local government failed.
These are big steps for Bengal where there is always a question mark on the viability of such ventures.
“People are so fed up, and to throw out the Marxists that they don’t need a railway budget to do so,” thundered the 55-year-old Trinamool chief, when asked if she had an eye on the 2011 assembly polls.
The CPM not only got a drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, but it was beaten fair and square in the recent municipal polls as well.
“If I have done it for all states, why should I not do it for Bengal?” she said, refusing to be drawn into an argument with predecessor Lalu Prasad.
Dubbed by the Left as anti-industry, Banerjee turned the tables on it by promising to take over three of the Bengal’s oldest companies.
The reaction in West Bengal was overwhelming.
“Her attempts to takeover and breathe life into Burn Standard and Braithwaite are remarkable steps, as the Centre had condemned both units to natural death,” said Nabo Datta, convener, Nagarik Mancha and an expert in industrial sickness.
She also signalled a land bank — a sore point for the Left — with surplus railways land for the use of industry.
Banerjee surpassed former railway minister A B A Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s largesse for the state. So much so, she even promised an upgrade of a non-existing station in the trouble-torn Lalgarh.
The minister while talking of a rail link between Nandigram and Singur also counted the non-existent “Lalgarh Junction” among the 309 stations to be turned into model stations. When asked, she said she had neighbouring areas like Midnapore and Bankura stations on her mind. The symbolism, however, was too obvious to miss.