You can win a kingdom from horseback, but you cannot rule from there. Years of defeat, humiliation and mistakes may have taught Mamata Banerjee when to climb out of the saddle. Her black Santro, caught in the Calcutta traffic snarl, is something between a chief minister’s convoy and a horse.
At the backseat of the small car, just a little bigger than the Nano, the lady of the moment is caught in a flurry of feelings, a dizzying rush of memories, ecstasy and fears. When the euphoria begins to fade, Bengal will expect miracles. She will govern a land that has suffered for decades: the wave of refugees after the Bangladesh war, the fears and police atrocities of the Naxalite days, a chaotic Congress regime, and decades of misrule by the Left.
Each scar has taken years to heal. Now, an impatient Bengal will ask her to salvage the lost years. Life, as Ms Banerjee has known it, will never be the same again.
But even as she thinks of the tortuous road that lies ahead, there’s a smile that slips across her face. There’s something that she knows. Something that can make her job simpler than what everybody, including her friends, thinks. Before she does anything, she knows she must stay away from doing what the Left did.
The Left were a strange bunch of men who wanted everybody, from the havildar to the top cop, from the village school master to the university vice-chancellor, from the builder to the LPG dealer, from the hospital ward boy to the health secretary, to be ‘their own people’.
Long before George Bush told the leaders of the world that “either you are with me or you are against me”, the Comrades had thrown a similar line to the people of Bengal. They did what no party that is firmly in power will ever make the mistake of doing: humiliate educationists, scrap shahoj path, an unforgettable primary school text by Tagore, from the curriculum, and set up party arms that functioned as durbars in every locality and were more powerful than police stations.
As the years went by, they (like Sanjay Gandhi) opened the doors to party membership to all kinds of ruffians. Soon, lumpen proletariats outnumbered the proletariats in the party. They did all that because they never thought they could hang on to power for so long.
Ms Banerjee has fewer hassles. She will be around for a long time. And unlike the Left’s ‘either with us or against us’ choice, she has seized power from a different plank: “if you are against the Left, join me.” Her first move could well be to simply step back and let the police and bureaucracy do their job.
She should have no problem in asking government employees to come on time and put in eight hours because pay-without-work wasn’t one of her pre-poll promises. While she has to create jobs, she is under no compulsion to find livelihood for a multitude of party cadres who captured power for her party. Economic Times