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Mamata Banerjee govt’s first 100 days: Bolder yet quieter, her ambitions now higher

In this regime, Mamata has looked more confident, if quieter — something that has helped prevent controversies.

 mamata banerjee, west bengal government, 100 days of government, mamata government, mamata banerjee governent, singur, trinamool congress, nitish kumar, lalu prasad yadav, farooq abdullah, mukul roy, tripura, mamata tripura, Gorkha Mukti Morcha, CPM, left, Surjya Kanta Mishra, indian express news, india news, mamata news Mamata takes oath in May. File photo

When the Trinamool Congress first came to power in 2011, the mandate was against the Left. This time, the sweep was for incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. And the guests at her swearing-in nearly 100 days ago — from Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad to Farooq Abdullah — showed her ambitions are now national.

In this regime, Mamata has looked more confident, if quieter — something that has helped prevent controversies. For instance, after the Park Street gangrape she had issued statements about the victim which drew widespread criticism, but this time a similar incident in Salt Lake hasn’t drawn a statement.

Her restraint is widely being interpreted as a sign of a maturity in a leader eyeing the national stage. One objective has been already achieved; her TMC has been recognised as a national party. Her close aide Mukul Roy is helping furthering the national plans, having gone to Tripura ahead of a rally that Mamata addressed last month.

At home, Mamata has striven to hold on to her base and gain a foothold in North Bengal. She has drawn key leader Pradeep Pradhan away from Gorkha Mukti Morcha.

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“More and more members of the Congress and the CPM are joining us practically every day, and of their own accord,” TMC MP Saugata Roy told The Indian Express.

CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said the TMC in its second term “is even worse than it was in the first term, in terms of violence against our workers and even in terms of buying elected representatives over from all non-TMC parties”. “She is trying to eliminate the Opposition altogether from the polling booth,” Mishra said.

He accused Mamata of sweeping vital issues under the carpet. “Whether it’s farmer suicides or starvation deaths in tea gardens or teacher recruitment, Saradha or Narada, the CM behaves as if nothing had happened.”

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Saugata Roy said Mamata’s most important change has been the cleanup of her party and the crackdown on the syndicate raj. The purge came amid allegations of corruption and the release of the Narada tapes, and the crackdown on July 18 saw 11,000 arrests in 24 hours, mostly TMC workers. On July 31, the police arrested TMC councillor Anindya Chattopadhyay after a conversation between Mamata and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina revealed that he had been trying to extort money from Hasina’s “relatives’’. Roy said, “This according to me is the biggest thing that she is doing… There are strongmen in the party and there is a little bit of corruption at the lower levels… She is clamping down.”

mamata graph

Political analyst Ranabir Samaddar agreed this was Mamata’s strongest move. The second biggest, he felt, is her stand on debt to the Centre. “She has been more aggressive in taking the Centre on, more confident… Over 70 per cent of the state’s revenues are consumed by this debt,” Samaddar said.

Mamata has spoken about the Centre’s “unilateral… undermining of federalism” and has raised the issue of restructuring debt with the PM. The government paid a debt of Rs 33,067 crore last year, which is likely to rise to Rs 36,869 crore this year. Also, 80 million-odd people will continue to get rice at Rs 2 per kg, even as state subsidy on foodgrains has risen 12 times from 2010 to 2016.

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This is why she has been making a huge push for foreign investment. When she travels for Mother Teresa’s canonisation, she will meet investors in Rome as well as Munich.

“She knows the problem lies in the state’s image and these perceptions need to be changed for investment to come in,” said Professor Avirook Sarkar of ISI. “Nobody wants to come to Bengal. This is why she is cracking down on syndicates and remedying the law-and-order situation.”

Udayan Bandopadhyay, professor of political science at Bangabashi College, said TMC members have been interfering in the healthcare system. “While she has been clamping down on syndicates, party members have entered governing bodies and committees in universities and colleges, they are vitiating the atmosphere here… The party feels they need to be in every nook and corner, that the state is their inheritance.”

First published on: 02-09-2016 at 02:03:02 am
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