Kerala’s Karats, and Buddha’s Bengal

It is strange. Karat is trying to undo all that Buddha is perspiring for in West Bengal. Karat’s foolish rigidity on Indo-US Nuclear deal on nuclear power can spoil the party of the booming economy for India. Naturally that will affect Buddha development plans for West Bengal too. Buddha has already one Mamata to fight and perhaps some more in his own party in West Bengal. Aggressive CITU is another hard nut to crack. How long can Buddha keep on talking against Karat’s views to keep the government at the center on his side for taking West Bengal on fast track?

West Bengal as such is a unique case. Generally, the stability of government means a better progress on the development front for a state. Comrades have been in power for now more than three decades in West Bengal. Thus West Bengal can boast of the most stable political climate amongst all the states. However the recent ‘The State of States’ study of ‘India Today’ presents a dismallypoor picture of West Bengal.

West Bengal is in the bottom half of the table on almost all parameters barring agriculture where it scores reasonably well, thanks to its water resources and the fertile land. But its performance is pathetic in areas like education where it is ranked 13, health (11), law and order (16) and infrastructure and budget management (15) among the 20 large states of the country. Any observer would be justified in asking why Kerala (where the Left ruled intermittently) ranks so high in health, education and law and order while West Bengal, where the Left Front has ruled uninterrupted, is trailing by such a huge margin. Simultaneously one may also ask why Kerala couldn’t emulate the model developed by West Bengal’s comrades to win the elections even after so dismal performance?

The initiative of the E.M.S. Namboodiripad regime for social infrastructure model is credited to put Kerala on track. Kerala kept on the path of progress in spite of the changing rulers. The same credit for initial progress of West Bengal goes to Dr. BC Roy, the first chief minister. But since late sixties with emergence of left front in ruling chair, West Bengal kept on going down the hill till Jyoti Basu was in the boss. Industrialist lost confidence in government. Union became too violent and aggressive. Even the comrades started sending their children to Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi for higher education. Investment became scarce. Airlines discarded Kolkata. Kolkata became almost a dead city. Unexpectedly Buddha has brought a fresh air of hope in West Bengal for return of better days. Today West Bengal is one of the most sought after state for investments by the industrialist of the country as well for many MNCs. It is a state that seems to be booming. I don’t know if it is limited to only Kolkata.

Kerala, the state of Prakash and his equally aggressive leftist wife Brinda Karat has been unable to build on the social infrastructure to lure investments or create a consumer market that would attract investments. Why do Prakashes are not doing something to overcome this situation? Lalita Panicker has written rightly, “The Karatian worldview does not stop at the borders of India, it encompasses ties with Iran, the nuclear deal, the spread of US hegemony and on-again, off-again opposition to economic reforms. Can we be forgiven for thinking that somewhere along the way, the CPI (M) has forgotten the issues that concern the very people from whom it derives such unprecedented power?” And he puts his views on Buddha too, “West Bengal’s feisty chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee doesn’t let Messrs Karat and Co. forget. So for every ‘suggestion’ from the high command, he comes up with his own Plan B. No mindless industrialisation and reform, shouted the comrades from the capital. We’ll get the capitalists in but make sure that their human face doesn’t slip, countered Bhattacharjee.”

Ignoring his comrades in New Delhi against Indo-US Nuclear Deal to the embarrassment of Manmohan Singh, West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee doesn’t believe in ” blind anti-Americanism” and adds, ”With time, we change our thinking. And when change is good for the people, why shouldn’t we, too, change?” While Prakash is busy addressing public rally, if that can be called a rally against Nuclear Deal, Buddha is scouting for land for two US companies. Buddha endorse the need of nuclear power and American investments, ”the biggest foreign investor in a country like Vietnam is the US. Now, isn’t Vietnam a communist country? We need US investments in areas such as education, IT and other areas, despite our differences with the US policies and those of the Centre.” And perhaps, all the local comrades are with him in his pursuits to take West Bengal up in the ranking among the states. Buddha is one of the chief ministers in east who wishes to be like the southern states on development ranking.

West Bengal is safe with Buddha. Are CPM and the country safe with Karat?

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