West Bengal is in desperate need of change, and not the ‘poriborton’ that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress had promised when it came power in 2011.
Political violence, goondagiri, corruption and minority appeasement have not let West Bengal grow since several decades now. Successive governments in the state, from the Congress and the Left to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), have not only failed to address these issues but banked on them to stay in power.
This cycle of violence, syndicate rule and corruption must come to an end now. Here are five major reasons that demonstrate why West Bengal needs a change.
Culture of political violence
After 34 years of Left rule, the people of West Bengal voted for Mamata Banerjee in 2011, hoping for ‘poriborton’ or change. Today these same people feel cheated because this change has turned into a nightmare.
The current political regime doesn’t seem to allow any room for alternate political thought – in fact, having one can be a serious risk to life in Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal.
In last year’s panchayat elections, nearly 34 per cent of the total seats went uncontested and the TMC candidates won unopposed. The BJP candidates who won in the panchayat elections had to temporarily relocate fearing for their lives.
This culture of political violence dates back to the 1970s. As per an estimate, 55,000 political murders took place in West Bengal between 1977 and 2009 during the Left rule.
A land of scams
It’s an irony that while West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tries to project a clean image, many of her party leaders have been accused of involvement in cases of corruption in multi-crore ponzi schemes –
Saradha and Rose Valley scams are examples of that.
The Saradha Group through various chit fund schemes had collected nearly Rs 3,500 crore from 17 lakh investors before the scam was unearthed. Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, former TMC MPs, were arrested in connection with the Saradha scam. Senior TMC leader Madan Mitra, who was earlier a transport minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, was also arrested.
Similarly, the Rose Valley Group, which has a chain of hotels and resorts, duped lakhs of investors through chit fund schemes. TMC MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Pal were arrested by the CBI in connection with the case.
Several poor and middle-class people had invested their life savings in these chit fund schemes, hoping for a good return. Many agents who had collected money from people under these schemes committed suicide.
Little growth & lack of jobs
The Left Front government and its destructive policies wiped out industries, dealing a blow to avenues of job creation in West Bengal. There was systematic corruption in every sector of the government, with the party cadre influencing important policy decisions. It is said that such was the influence of the Left cadre that one could get a ration card only if it was approved by the local head of the party.
The present government in West Bengal has been accused of following a similar style of functioning. The migration of educated and talented youngsters from Bengal to other parts of the country due to lack of job opportunities is well-known. One out of every five Bengali-speakers lives outside West Bengal.
Many believe that West Bengal could not reap the benefits of liberalisation due to the non-cooperation of the Left government. The situation hasn’t improved much under the current regime as well. West Bengal’s outstanding debt is among the highest in the country.
No political freedom
It seems Bengal is fighting its second battle of Independence after 1947. Successive governments over the last few decades have clamped down on political and ideological freedom that is at variance with theirs.
Recently, Yogi Adityanath, who heads a popular government in Uttar Pradesh, had to address a rally in Balurghat over phone after the local administration did not allow his helicopter to land. Similarly, Amit Shah’s helicopter was also denied permission to use the airport in Malda.
In September 2017, a state government-run auditorium where RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat was scheduled to deliver a speech cancelled the booking for the event.
Under such circumstances, I can only imagine the battle an ordinary BJP worker must be fighting every day. Any criticism of the current regime is dealt with an iron hand.
In 2012, a Jadavpur University professor was arrested because he forwarded a cartoon of the West Bengal chief minister.
Policy of appeasement
Bengal’s social harmony has been threatened by successive governments. The policy of Muslim appeasement was started by the Congress and has since been adopted by many regional parties, including the TMC in Bengal, through their vote bank politics.
Mamata Banerjee’ vote bank politics, however, has been exposed. While she recently said that the NRC exercise will lead to “civil war, bloodbath in the country”, union minister Arun Jaitley reminded the CM about her exactly opposite stand on the issue in 2005. Mamata Banerjee had then said that “infiltration into Bengal has become a disaster”.
The rampant illegal migration has put a sense of fear among the locals. Communal violence is now a reality in West Bengal today.
West Bengal desperately needs change. After years of misrule, people of Bengal have shown their trust in the leadership of Narendra Modi by coming out in large numbers for his rally. They can sense that real change is on its way.
The author is a national executive member of the BJP Yuva Morcha. Views are personal.
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