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ODD PRIORITY

Warped priorities are often synonymous with bad governance. The chief minister of any state is expected first and foremost to provide good governance to the people of the state that he is supposed to rule. To this end, the chief minister, it is expected, will put aside his ego and build a consensus on critical issues with, if necessary, the Opposition and political rivals. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, not surprisingly, is the great exception to the expectations voiced in the previous sentences. Even before she came to power, she treated her political rival, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), as a pariah. As chief minister, she has perpetuated this great barrier between “us” and “them”. Needless to say, this has been detrimental to the state of West Bengal. Her disregard, if not contempt, for the Opposition has only served to strengthen the perception that she has little time or respect for democratic norms and niceties. She has steadfastly refused to build bridges with those she loathes even for the welfare of the state. Her ego has thwarted good governance.

Now suddenly, on a matter that has nothing to do with the state and its administration, Ms Banerjee has announced her willingness to go many miles to meet the Opposition. She declared, startling everybody, that she is willing to visit the CPI(M) headquarters in Alimuddin Street to persuade the comrades to side with her in moving a no-confidence motion against the United Progressive Alliance government. With the same aim in mind, she has also approached the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a formation that till a few days ago was also considered untouchable. (Ms Banerjee had of course been a minister in the Central government led by the BJP. But that was before she discovered the importance of the Muslim voters in West Bengal.) What these overtures suggest is that Ms Banerjee is willing to sit down and talk with Opposition parties to fulfil her own personal agenda of toppling the UPA government, but she is not willing to do the same for providing good governance to the people of West Bengal. The BJP and the CPI(M) can be potential allies in Delhi inside the Lok Sabha, but in West Bengal they remain beyond the pale of political dialogue.

To most reasonable people this double standard would appear bizarre and inexplicable. But seen through the prism of vendetta, it acquires a certain ominous clarity. Ms Banerjee’s priority is to overthrow the UPA government of which she was a part till the other day. Having been forced to leave the UPA, she is now viciously against it. No one can convince her that her priority should be effectively ruling West Bengal, not pursuing a petty vendetta.