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LET THEM SING

For a company, nothing matters more than the vision of its chief executive. The head of a government carries pretty much the same burden. The sad thing about West Bengal today is that the chief minister does not seem to know the difference between a vision and a self-aggrandizing public show. Those who followed Mamata Banerjee’s words and deeds over the past one and a half years had little to expect of “Bengal Leads”, the show that was put up ostensibly in order to attract investors to the state. There was no surprise, therefore, that almost no major industrial group cared to send its representative to the state government’s programme at Haldia. They obviously anticipated, correctly as it turned out, what the show was all about. It was all about Ms Banerjee’s vacuous political rhetoric aimed at projecting herself, accompanied by laughable bits of ‘culture’. A couple of industrialists singing songs on the dais at the behest of the chief minister highlighted the farcical element in the show. But, considering Bengal’s economic decline, it could hardly be amusing to anyone other than those in Ms Banerjee’s charmed circle. Unwittingly perhaps, she herself exposed the emptiness of it all by comparing Bengal with Gujarat. There was no sign, though, that she understood why investors flocked to Narendra Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat and why they steered clear of the show.

The chief minister is not known to take counsel other than her own. But she will do well to rid herself of illusions and take a hard look at Bengal’s reality. She could have used the programme at Haldia to announce a couple of policies and measures that Bengal badly needs in order to attract investment. She could have used it to give an outline of an industrial policy that could stem the rot in the state. This was also an opportunity to show that she could make realistic changes in her policy on the acquisition of land for new industries. It was impossible to miss the irony in her choice of Haldia as the venue for the show. Once a symbol of Bengal’s industrial rejuvenation, the town today lives in fear of industries moving out and workers losing their jobs. Ms Banerjee’s show did nothing to reassure entrepreneurs at Haldia, let alone attract investors from other shores. In fact, what she said and did at Haldia makes one wonder whether she knows what governance is all about.