After ousting the Left entrenched in West Bengal for over three decades, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has completed six months in office, grappling with a debt burden of about Rs two lakh crore, the Maoist issue, besides not so comfortable a relationship with ally Congress.
In her first major achievement within two months after taking office on May 20, Banerjee, who ended 34-year Left rule in West Bengal, was able to broker the tripartite Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Agreement signed on July 18 at Darjeeling.
The GTA, which replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in 1988, offered maximum possible autonomy to the hills under the central and state laws and Banerjee promised a package for the hills to push it on the road to development. The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, was passed in the Assembly, in a step towards returning the land of the Tata Motors small car factory at Singur to unwilling farmers as stated in her party's election manifesto. In response to separate petitions by Tata Motors and its vendors, the Calcutta High Court ruled the Act as valid.
The matter is now pending before a High Court division bench. Banerjee, however, is sore with the Congress over inadequate help from the Centre to tide over the financial crisis bequeathed to her by the erstwhile Left Front government. "The Centre has not given me a single paise," Banerjee said on Friday referring to her government's plea for a financial bailout package. She had earlier threatened to walkout of the UPA after petrol prices were raised, then clarified that her party would pullout if there was a further hike in prices of petro products.
Banerjee's latest outburst came after the Youth Congress led by its state president Mausam Noor and Deepa Dasmushi, MP, led a silent procession from Hazra, near the Trinamool chief's Kalighat residence in protest against attacks on Congress workers and inaction of the police. The anti-government protest significantly was held in the Kolkata South Lok Sabha constituency where by-elections are scheduled on November 30 with Trinamool Congress candidate Subrata Bakshi, the Transport minister and CPI(M)'s Ritabrata Banerjee being the main contenders.
The Trinamool Congress chief was quick to question the choice of venue for the rally and to underscore that her party, the second largest constituent of the UPA, was not dependent on the Congress in the state, while her ally depended on her party at the national level. The Congress, on the other hand, has its own grouses. Recently a delegation, comprising MLAs, district presidents and PCC general secretaries, met Rahul Gandhi and Congress Working Committee member in-charge of West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed in Delhi.
They complained about partymen being attacked by the Trinamool Congress and the fight across the state over party offices deserted by the CPI(M). WBPCC president Pradip Bhattacharya told PTI "We are not indulging in anti-government activities. Congress workers are being attacked by the Trinamool Congress. We are only highlighting this." Pointing out that the Congress was a partner in the coalition government in the state, he said "We are a partner of the state government. We will remain so. Nobody had uttered a word criticising the Trinamool Congress. But we have not signed a bond that Congress will not agitate on its own." The Trinamool Congress chief, however, dismissed the Congress allegations and claimed that it was the Congress which was attacking her party workers in several areas in the state and allegedly killed a partyman at Gajol in Malda district on Thursday, which was strengthening the hands of the CPI(M).
The government's purported decision to shift a hospital on the lines of AIIMS from its proposed site in Raigunj, a Congress stronghold, to Kalyani in Nadia district, has also not gone down well with the ally. A section of the state Congress was also pressing the national leadership that the party should go it alone in the next year's panchayat polls and plan a stir against the state government's reported decision to entrust bureaucrats to take up development work in panchayats. Also with the Trinamool Congress lobbying for a coordination mechanism in New Delhi, WBPCC leader Abdul Mannan told PTI a similar body should be formed in the state.
In yet another step in fulfilling her election promise, Banerjee thrice visited Maoist-hit junglemahal and announced a slew of developmental programmes for the local people, especially tribals. For the first time, the Chief Minister also formed a committee of interlocutors to negotiate with the ultras in a bid to bring them to talk to the government. Peace, however, eludes the three Maoist-hit districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia with a number of Trinamool Congress workers being killed by the insurgents, prompting the Chief Minister to order resumption of operations by the joint security forces. To make matters worse, a prominent Maoist leader Akash rejected the temporary truce between the government and the ultras and the interlocutors expressing willingness to resign. Banerjee, however, met the interlocutors yesterday and persuaded them to continue.