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HOPE REDEEMED

At the same time, embedded in the mandate is a demand. This can be articulated in simple terms. There is the expectation that West Bengal under Mr Bhattacharjee's leadership will set the agenda for economic reforms for the entire nation. West Bengal should no longer follow or react to policy parameters set down by New Delhi. It should act as the pace-setter in opening up new areas to foreign direct investment. Be it the airport or retail trade, West Bengal should blaze the trail instead of trailing behind. The election verdict thus places an enormous responsibility on Mr Bhattacharjee. He has created aspirations, and he has come to power with a colossal majority riding on these aspirations ' he now has to make the commitment to deliver and meet the dreams that he has conjured up. The verdict says, Bengal expects.

There was a time when the people of Bengal were proud that the rest of India emulated what Bengal did and thought. History has given to Mr Bhattacharjee an opportunity to restore to West Bengal that former glory. The mandate of the people carries this message to the chief minister. He cannot afford to misread or ignore this message. The signals for economic reforms should henceforth emanate from West Bengal. The laggard state of the past should act as the model state for the future and for the whole of India. This will not be easy to accomplish. But the electorate of West Bengal has chosen not to leave Mr Bhattacharjee with any choice. Mr Bhattacharjee's West Bengal must become India's future.

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