With friends like Didi
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With friends like Didi

If there is one Indian politician closest in demeanour to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, it would be Mamata Banerjee, Chanakya writes.

columns Updated: Aug 18, 2012 21:44 IST
Hindustan Times

If there is one Indian politician closest in demeanour to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, it would be Mamata Banerjee. While not so imperious as the bloodthirsty Queen, she is nevertheless peremptory in her judgments with little tho-ught to the fact that as chief minister of a huge state, she is bound to be under scrutiny not just from her opponents but also the people who elected her.

After one year in power, Mamatadi shows no signs of maturity. Honestly, what was she thinking when she said, “Why should many judgments today be delivered for money? Why?” I wonder if she is smarting at the judiciary because it's gone against her in an important issue. A judicial bench held the Singur Land Rehabilitation Development Act 2011 to be unconstitutional and invalid — Singur was the plank on which she stormed to power. Then comes the double whammy. The state human rights commission has asked the state government to pay Rs. 50,000 each to a professor and retired engineer after they were rounded up for circulating cartoons which did not depict Didi in a favourable light. Whatever happened to the famed Bengali sense of humour?

Consistency is not always a virtue in politics. Her discomfiture with the Congress clearly stems from the fact that she is unable to accept that the party in which she cut her political teeth has metamorphosed so dramatically as to be unrecognisable. From strong socialist leanings, the Congress today is an ardent advocate of the free market. So we have the 'let's trip up the Congress whenever we can' policy.

The Communists must be beside themselves with merriment at just how efficiently Banerjee has squandered the mandate handed over to her. It's one thing to be the epitome of simplicity but sometimes I wonder if this has been stretched to mean a bit simple-minded as well. A Peter Pan like quality may be a virtue in some disciplines, but catastrophic in the complex world of Indian politics.

Ever since Banerjee became an ally of the UPA, all we have seen from her is obstructionist politics. I cannot think of a single positive move barring an unscheduled visit to a hospital where there had been an unusual number of deaths of babies. But after the storm and fury, she did not follow up on that. Then came the molestation of a woman, something our Didi took to be a Commie plot to besmirch her fair name. But the most worrying is the near paranoia about being the target of Maoists. From the innocent student who questioned her in a studio to the poor farmer trying to make his voice heard at her meeting, she has used the omnibus cha-rge that they are all Maoists or inspired by Maoists. This would be laughable if it were not so alarming, coming as it does from the person who presides over the fate of millions.

The UPA government tries to raise petrol prices, along comes Didi breathing fire and forcing a rollback. Then she attacks the concept of foreign direct investment in retail. And it goes on with Didi in the role of Cassandra. How I admired her when she stor-med the red bastion, this woman with no political godfathers, whose humble background offered her no adv-antages. And how disappointed I am that she is no better than those she replaced. In fact, I would go as far as to say that her style of governance is scary in that it is completely reactive rather than proactive.

I wonder if people have stopped taking her seriously. The deafening silence from the Left in West Bengal is telling. It's almost as if they think it's not worth countering her bizarre statements and moves. At least, she could have ensured that her favo-urite minister Mukul Roy, for whom she sacrificed an efficient one in Dinesh Trivedi, is effective. But in the face of rail accidents and a decaying railway system, Roy has either been silent or has come out with incomprehensible statements, much like his mentor.

Banerjee's crumpled sari teamed with hawai chappals was definitely appealing. But the charm has worn off. We are in an age where chief ministers are really pulling their weight. From Narendra Modi to Nitish Kumar, they are earning their spurs when it comes to economic growth and development in their states. Whether one agrees with their political ideologies or not, it is clear that they have a gameplan for their states which explains why they have little time to tilt at windmills, Didi style.

The most worrying thing is that there does not seem to be anyone in Didi's coterie who is giving her the right sort of advice. Even if I am to assume that she is congenitally opposed to big business coming in to the state, it's passing strange that she has done little for social development. Can you tell me a single poverty alleviation scheme that she has announced? Either she has touching faith in people's patience or she genuinely believes that she is doing a good job of it. All I can say is that given the way things are now, she seems to be presiding more over the Mad Hatter's tea party than running a poor and backward state.

First Published: Aug 18, 2012 21:36 IST