The new West Bengal government seems to be basking in the glory of what it has achieved in the last two months in office — the legal enactment for land transfer in Singur, welfare packages for the Maoist-affected Jangalmahal, and a tripartite agreement in Darjeeling.
But serious bottlenecks remain because implementation of these measures may not be as easy as it seems now. By persuading the Supreme Court to look into the legality of the land transfer, the Tata group has won the first round. The Trinamool Congress electoral pledge is, thus, at best ‘futuristic’ with less applicability in the case of Singur. The same can be said with regard to the Jangalmahal package despite the best intention’s of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The Maoists, who allegedly supported the Trinamool on the forcible take-over of land by the previous Left Front government, don’t seem persuaded with the package. This welfare scheme contains measures for socio-economic development. But given the state’s financial bankruptcy, it remains to be seen whether the effort is a politically-contrived design or a meaningful package that will ameliorate the conditions of the wretched of the earth.
Similarly, whether the tripartite agreement to set up an autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling Hills will pave the way for settling the ‘Gorkhaland question’ is uncertain. Bimal Gurung, the leader of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, has already been criticised by many as soon as the terms and conditions of the agreement were made public. The participants of movement for a separate state of aren’t satisfied as to them the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) is just another ploy to take the steam out of the mass movement — even though in real terms, the GTA is endowed with substantial power.
The other area Banerjee needs to deal with seriously is linked with coalition politics. It was easier for the CPI(M) to maintain the Left Front coalition because of its hegemonic numerical majority in the assembly. Also, as a party it was well-entrenched and had a widespread organisational presence in the state. None of the Left Front partners had the resources to effectively challenge its hegemony. In the Trinamool-Congress alliance, the Congress may be a minority in the state, but it is a numerically stronger party at the Centre. So the coalition texture is not the same.
In the allotment of Cabinet berths, the Trinamool was charged with a Big Brotherly attitude towards the Congress. This has its ramification at the municipal level, as was evident recently during the formation of the Raiganj municipality in the Malda district. In the July election the Congress had secured more than two-third majority of seats in the municipality while the Trinamool won only five seats. Taking recourse to the coalition dharma, the Trinamool insisted on the post of vice chairperson that the Congress refused. So far, Banerjee has succeeded in sustaining the momentum her party had gained primarily because of the brutality of the earlier Left Front government. But negative popularity, responsible for consolidating anti-Left sentiments in the state, may not provide a stable political platform for the Trinamool in the long run unless mass aspirations are fulfilled with tangible gains.
Bidyut Chakrabarty is professor of political science, University of Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.