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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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ALAS, POOR BENGAL

In the fuss created by Ms Mamata Banerjee’s utterly meaningless fast and its resolution there are no victors. There is only one victim. That victim is the hapless state of West Bengal. The chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, indicated this when he told a gathering of businessmen that the fast had sent out negative signals to investors about the state of West Bengal. It did indeed. An investor contemplating putting his capital in West Bengal will now have to consider how to counteract the blackmailing tactics of a politician. This is exactly what Ms Banerjee indulged in for 25 days: she held the state of West Bengal to ransom by occupying a portion of Calcutta’s major artery and by announcing that she was not amenable to reason. It was an insane and an inane act masquerading as a form of protest. The people of West Bengal and the entire government and administration were made to watch this charade. She was oblivious to the damage she was doing.

She refused to listen to appeals made by the governor of the state, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi. She even refused to countenance sane advice given to her by some of her own party members. She preferred to be egged on by some irresponsible Naxalite elements. The state administration, at the behest of the chief minister perhaps, allowed the fast and the blackmail to drag on when it could have stopped it by removing her to a nursing home. The chief minister over-extended his patience and tolerance by refusing to take action and by writing to Ms Banerjee four times. He refused to precipitate matters because he was more concerned about the political fallout of a forcible removal than about the damage being done to the image of West Bengal as an investor-friendly destination. By appealing four times to a politician resorting to blackmail, the chief minister harmed the dignity of the chair he occupies. He put himself in the position of a supplicant. Mr Bhattacharjee should always think about what is best for the state. He cannot allow his judgement to be clouded by petty political considerations. The dignity of the chair he occupies demands that he acts always in a manner befitting a chief minister, and not as a leader of the Communist party of India (Marxist).

Every single actor in the episode acted in a manner that made West Bengal a victim. Ms Banerjee behaved in a manner that is beneath condemnation. Mr Bhattacharjee thought first about the political loss his party might suffer if he acted as a chief minister should. If Ms Banerjee damaged the image of West Bengal, Mr Bhattacharjee hurt the office of the chief minister. Governance cannot be about calculating political profit and loss. It always has to be about what is best for the state. The end of 2006 revealed the fact that there is no political leader in West Bengal who places the dignity and the development of the state on the top of his list of priorities. Unfortunate the land trapped in politics.

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