Now govern

The results from West Bengal were the most looked forward to among the states that went to the polls in April and May, and they proved to be the most exciting and dramatic. The historic dimension of the electoral change has been recorded and recognised. While the victory of the Trinamool Congress was expected, it is doubtful if its magnitude had been foreseen. The Left Front was reduced in size from 283 in the last assembly to 62 now and the strength of the Trinamool Congress alliance went up from 51 to 227. That was nothing short of a revolution through the ballot box.

Bengal was waiting for the change as it had been stuck in a political and economic cul-de-sac for long. Long and unchallenged power had led the CPM-led Left Front to lose touch with the people. The state, once among the country’s most industrialised states, fell to the bottom rung during the Left Front rule.

When the Front woke up, it got embroiled in the issue of farmers’ land, as in Singur and Nandigram. Mamata Banerjee’s identification with the farmers’ cause gave her the opening that was needed to break into the Left citadel. It also gave the trigger for all disillusionment with the government and anger against it to coalesce into a movement that has now uprooted the Front from power.

However big Banerjee’s accomplishment is, the greater challenge for her lies ahead. She has to prove she is as good an administrator as an agitationist. There is a possibility of political violence if the Trinamool Congress and the Left Front cadres do not make the best democratic response to victory and defeat. Bengal has seen such violence in times of political change in the past. The Trinamool’s responsibility is the greater in this respect because it is the ruling party. Its leadership will have to clearly define and follow a positive agenda for the state. It is now seen as only following anti-CPM and anti-Left line.

The state is not in good financial health and might need help from the Centre. Its economic growth is among the worst  in the country. It has to promote industry and generate employment. Banerjee is bound to run into the same problems as the Left Front did, unless she has very different solutions. She has got five years to show results, but she should better count them in days.

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