Mamata chased by ‘cheat’ fund scam

Mamata chased by ‘cheat’ fund scam

The multi-million chit (or cheat) fund scandal in West Bengal has exposed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and deep cracks in the structure of the...

The multi-million chit (or cheat) fund scandal in West Bengal has exposed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and deep cracks in the structure of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) that she leads. She and her ardent followers are crying hoarse against the Narendra Modi Government, accusing it of misusing the investigation agencies to defame the TMC. But they cannot override harsh realities of politics. There cannot be political defence to what is legally wrong.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pursuing the scandal under directives of the Supreme Court has traced involvement of many TMC higher ups. If that has coincided with the onslaught the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning, it is for them to meet the challenge politically. Mixing the two will not help.

Mamata erected a skeleton of a party without proper organizational political structure. It must be recalled that her cadres came from the Maoists who wanted to demolish the then ruling CPI(Marxist), from disgruntled Marxists and others of the Left Front and Congressmen who saw no future in the parent party. Indeed, it was a huge anti-Marxist phalanx. Mamata should be credited with having rallied all these forces. But given her populist style, she did not bother to organize them. All and sundry owing, or shifting allegiance to her formed the party cadres and units.

Mamata gathered support as she took on the Left Front that had been decaying after over three decades in power. The support came mainly from the middle class that had enjoyed the benefits of the Left rule and was asking for more. The urban voter was getting restive.

But in building the antidote to the Left, Mamata did not evolve an alternative ideology or plan to undo all she despised in the Left’s governance. It is doubtful if she even felt the need for one.

Eventually, she demolished the Left citadel in the last assembly elections. She even reduced the Congress to a rump. But she did not have anything solid on the ground to replace it.

She has displayed her visceral opposition to the Left ever since she was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984, defeating Marxist veteran Somnath Chatterji. He was supposed to have called her “a cabaret girl” (something most unlikely coming from him). But she built her campaign on this and won on the sympathy wave generated in favour of the Congress by the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

She did not need any provocation to spew venom. She would be on her feet and any opportunity or excuse was enough to engage in verbal abuse. She provided amusement to the Congress leaders with her harangue against the Marxists. The gradual erosion of the eve-squabbling Congress in the state gave her the opportunity to get huge crowds.

She would fearlessly fight the police, even attack them, and then get ‘injured’ or stand on a police jeep and try to strangulate herself with the pallu of her saree. This gave her the mistaken belief of mass support which, when it came to voting, was absent.

She fell out with Narasimha Rao before 1996 reelection to launch her own political edifice. Her main complaint was that the Congress leadership was too soft towards the Left parties. But her parting did not yield votes. Nor did her dallying with the BJP deliver political benefits, although she shared power in the NDA government. Those were the days the Left Front was increasing its tally in the legislature.

Mamata returned the Congress fold and a huge haul of seats in the Lok Sabha in 2009 election revived her spirits to make a desperate bid to throw out the Left from power in her state. She struck gold mine in her campaign over Tata’s Nano car project as she convinced the rural poor that expansion of industrial base as the Left wanted would not deliver them from their poverty. They had no skills to work on machine. But they certainly would lose their daily earnings as their lands would be lost to them in erecting industrial sheds. As a result of the Nandigram violence that the Left failed to handle, she won – West Bengal lost. Gujarat gained the project.

Mamata’s victory was accompanied by the decimation of the Left and marginalization of the Congress. She did begin by having a good finance minister in Amit Mitra and an advisor in P Bandopadhyaha. For the rest, she had no clear plans to cause the ‘poroborton’ that she had promised the people. She tried to make up lack of it by belligerence for everyone, including her ally, the Congress. She behaved as an intolerant despot who would send anyone behinds bars even for a minor criticism of her rule or her person. She blamed incidents of rape and her mis-governance on Marxists.

In a bloated self-estimation, she even tried to dictate her whims for national politics. To make herself indispensable to the UPA government in Delhi, she tried to keep Mulayam Singh Yadav away from supporting the Congress government in case she withdrew her support to the government or if the Congress decided to break off. She assumed that so long as Yadav was at a loose end, the Manmohan Singh Government had no fears of collapse and could boldly snap relations with her.

Her projection of Abdul Kalam for a fresh term in the presidency embarrassed him. Most state leaders disapproved of her style. None bought her disastrous effort to defeat Pranab Mukherjee as the Congress candidate in presidential polls. Ultimately she had to support Mukherjee as son of soil. In organizing TMC and choosing candidates for elections, she sought no bio-data, nor did she probe into their antecedents before nominating them and assigning them key tasks. She was confident of being in full command while selecting candidates for the Lok Sabha and the assembly polls. She did not observe basic norms to verify public image of persons whom she nominated.

The chit fund scandal is the logical outcome of her running a party of people only loyal to her. The scandal has eroded her credibility as the CBI discovers new connections with TMC each day. The side show of the scandal is that several heroes of yesterday, even outside West Bengal, stand exposed as beneficiaries or participants. In contrast to Mamata, Odisha’s Navin Patnaik has cooperated fully with the probe. He has not made political issue of his colleagues being investigated, even detained. Mamata can protest loudly, even charge the BJP with conspiracy to snatch the state from her. She alone is responsible for this, having decimated the Left and marginalised the Congress – being without friends and allies altogether.

There can be arguments over the way the Left ruled West Bengal. But Mamata has allowed no scope for that.

By: Mahendra Ved

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