TO dislodge the Left Front government of West Bengal, which has ruined the state over the last 34 years, is no mean achievement. Mamata Banerjee is likely to achieve this feat through the ballot.
Mamata Banerjee should be complimented for the grit, determination and single-mindedness of purpose which has endeared her to the electorate of West Bengal. In the process of unwavering focus on dislodging the violent communist cadres from power, she has committed some mis-steps such as aligning with the Muslim fundamentalists and association with Maoists in some districts of West Bengal. Only time will tell if her rule is likely to be less of a misadventure than the Left Front’s ideologically blinded impoverishment of West Bengal.
The report card showing the decline of the Left Front in West Bengal is revealing.
Vote share of Left Front
2006 Assembly - 48.4%
2009 Lok Sabha - 43.4%
Sonia Gandhi promptly dumped the support of the communists when their share of Lok Sabha seats slumped from 61 to 24. When the Left loses power in the State, many comrades may seek a break-up of the party led by Prakash Karat who has proved himself to be an incompetent secretary of the party and incapable of understanding the electoral arithmetic. It is one thing to ideologically oppose Indian foreign policy’s subservience to American interests, it is quite another to make the communist Marxist party relevant as an institution for upliftment of the bhadralok. CPI-M has tried to mimic Chinese privatisation policies by inviting the likes of Ratan Tata into making a peoples’ car in West Bengal (Nandigram), which turned into a fiasco, exacerbating the contradictions between the party’s ideological line of support to the agriculturists’ tenancy rights and seeking industrialised West Bengal as an economic opportunity even if it deprived agriculturists of their only means of livelihood: arable land which provided for at least two crops every year.
In a way, the contraction in ideological underpinnings of the CPI-M and their comrades in varying shades of red, is the contradiction which is as yet unresolved all over India. Is it possible to absorb a major percentage of the people now dependent upon agriculture into services or industry sector jobs? In the Indian condition, this is an impossibility because services or industry sectors just cannot absorb the major chunk of rural population with limited skill sets and with limited opportunities for gainful employment in service or industry sectors. For the foreseeable future, India has to be a nation which lives in the over 6 lakh villages and a sensible approach is to reach employment to the people where they are located - rural India. This can be achieved by creating a National Water Grid (through interlinking of rivers). This Grid will help create an additional 9 crore acres of wet land with assured irrigation. If these 9 crore acres of additional land can be distributed to 9 crore landless families, about 45 crore people of India will become owners of agricultural land (assuming 5 persons per family). This will create a veritable revolution in the nation by giving 45 crore people avenues for gainful employment in the agriculture sector. Such employment potential has the potential to take the agricultural growth from the present low levels of about 1.9 per cent annual growth to about 5 per cent growth rate. The surplus flood waters of Brahmaputra alone can double the total water flows in all rivers south of the Vindhyas and make all these rivers perennial rivers. The Perspective Plan drawn by National Water Development Agency of Minister of Water Resources, Government of India indicates the feasibility of taking the Brahmaputra flood waters from Farakka barrage through Subarnarekha river to Mahanadi and on to Godavari, Krishna, Palar, Pennar, Cauvery, Vaippar and Gundar rivers right down to Kanyakumari. This will be the realisation of the dream of that great hydraulic engineer Arthur Cotton who saw that the waters can flow in the grid almost entirely by gravity. Only at place in Pochampalli on Godavari, a lift of about 300 ft. will be involved and even this can be overcome by tunneling through the plateau land. Similar tunneling will enable the creation of a contour canal along the Sahyadri mountain ranges to move the waters into east-flowing rivers avoiding the wasted flows of waters into the Arabian Ocean.
The glory of ancient West Bengal can be regained by restarting the Bali yatra and creating an Indian Ocean Community (IOC) with sea-faring people of West Bengal and Orissa and east coast regions recollecting the memory that the largest Vishnu Mandiram of the world is not in India but in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The dharma-dhamma continuum emphasised by Gautama, the Buddha with his famous dictum: esha dhammo sanantano can provide the foundation for setting up the Indian Ocean Community which will be a counterpoise to the European Community and provide for a 6 trillion dollar GDP community with concomitant multiplier effects achieved through projects such as Trans-Asian Railway and Trans-Asian Highway linking Bangkok to Vladivostok through Burma and West Bengal.
Will Mamata Banerjee grow to be of such a visionary status, a statesman of the caliber of Margaret Thatcher as to make IOC a reality, thinking beyond West Bengal into Akhand Bharat? Or will she wallow in the small pleasures of vote-bank, minority politics and go the way the way leftists made themselves irrelevant in Indian polity?