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The spectre of Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister

The spectacular victory of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the recently-held municipal committee’s polls will have far-reaching ramifications in the politics of the country, writes Khushwant Singh.

columns Updated: Jun 19, 2010 23:38 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

The spectacular victory of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the recently-held municipal committee’s polls will have far-reaching ramifications in the politics of the country. As the saying goes: “When Bengal sneezes, India catches a cold”, she has written the last paragraph of a saga of over three decades of Marxist rule in West Bengal.

You can be sure that people who voted the Trinamool in these polls will vote for it in elections to State legislature and the parliament. So when the next West Bengal provincial elections take place in a year or so the Marxist rule will come to an end and the Trinamool Congress will replace it with Mamata Banerjee as its Chief Minister.

Leaders of the Communist Party who are trying to minimise the impact of Mamata's success are in for a drubbing from their own cadres for to make way for new leaders who will not be committed to out-dated Americo phobia or dogmatic Marxism and take a more pragmatic view of the country's development plans.

So will the Ruling UPA government at the Centre. Its number two man, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee cannot hope to return to the Lok Sabaha unless he comes to terms with Mamata Banerjee. Consequently Mamata Didi Express which pulled into Howrah railway station a couple of weeks ago, will streak back to New Delhi railway station, carrying a load of uneasy passengers.

What kind of Chief Minister will Mamata Banerjee make? She has as many plus points as minus ones. She is frugal and lives in a humble lower-middle class home. I saw her ride on the pillion of a motorcycle to get to a meeting on time. She has set an example to her fellow-ministers how to behave like a common citizen.

On the negative side are her impulsive nature and outbursts of temper. She finds it hard to play as a member of a team and often strays off course. She, more than anyone else, was responsible for forcing Tata to shift its project of mass manufacturing a people's car Nano, the cheapest in the world. From West Bengal to Gujarat. That kind of reckless behaviour makes industrialists reluctant to set up factories in West Bengal.

She has to weigh the pros and cons of every new project and restore confidence of likely investors who will give employment to thousands of her fellow Bengalis. She must also curb irresponsible trade unionism which was encouraged by the Marxists till it got out of hand and they themselves became its victims. Wild cat strikes, bandhs and gheraos of industrialists and ministers and non-ending protest marches has been principal reason for the non-industrialisation of the State. Mamata will have to put the West Bengal back on the track of prosperity.

And finally, my grievance against her is that she never smiles or laughs. She must learn to do it and spread cheerfulness around her.

Survival Strategy

The unprecedented heat wave that enveloped most of the northern India has taken a heavy toll on the health of many people. Many who did not change their diet required by the change of season went down with stomach disorders. They learnt a bitter lesson that food which they relish in cold weather may not agree with them in warm weather. One friend told me he had been rash enough to hog on Amritsari fish and for many days and nights had spent much time in his toilet and was now on antibiotics.

I too went down after eating rice and keema (minced meat for dinner). For me, it was also an unending race from my arm chair to the commode. It made me work out a strategy for survival during hot summer months.

The first thing you must do is to drastically reduce the amount of solid food you consume and increase the intake of fluids. The less you eat, the better for your health. For a few days I gave up eating solids and lived on lime water laced with sugar, salt and black pepper. I lost weight and became steadier on my feet.

My family doctor who was on a two-months vacation had prescribed 22½ pills of different colours and sizes. He assured me the pills were not medicines but tonics to tone up my ageing body. When he was not around, I discovered to my joy that they were normal. I came to the conclusion that the body needs very little to survive and the less you take, the less you tax your digestive system. Also, avoid taking red meat, fish and crustacea like prawns during summer. Increase intake of fluids — fruit juices, falsa or bel sharbat.

Selective Hearing

A man who was standing on the bathroom scale, started sucking in his stomach. His wife noticed this.
Wife: “You are wasting your energy. That won’t help you at all.”
Man: “It certainly will. If I don’t suck in my stomach, how will I see how much I weigh?”

(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi)

First Published: Jun 19, 2010 21:56 IST