Mamata begins second year - with bouquets, brickbats
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee begins her second year in office on Sunday after a tumultuous year when the former firebrand opposition leader exhibited her untested administrative skills, earning both accolades and criticism.
The one year of holding the reins of one of the most happening states in the country has been a mixed bag, say scores of people who spoke to a news agency.
Banerjee virtually single-handedly decimated the 34-year-old Left Front regime in May last year with the slogan `change not revenge`. She took the oath of office May 20, 2011.
"Mamata-di has worked tirelessly for Bengal`s development," Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed told a news agency. "When we say that all work has been done, we mean the seeds of development have been sown. The fruits will come soon."
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), her diehard foe now in the opposition, has another view.
"We know a government needs some time (to perform), but the government itself is creating issues every day. As an opposition party, we can`t keep our mouth shut," former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said recently.
Banerjee began well, ensuring that teachers got salaries on the first of every month.
She signed a tripartite pact to restore peace in Darjeeling, encouraging tourists to return to the scenic hilly region.
The regime also passed legislation so as to return 400 acres of land from the Tata Motors plant to farmers from whom they had been taken. But the issue is stuck in courts.
She also took several steps to improve the work culture of the state administration and state-run hospitals by paying surprise visits.
West Bengal`s first woman chief minister has also opened 10 police stations comprising exclusively of women personnel, and plans to open 55 more.
Ladies` special trams and buses have also been introduced. Women government employees can also now avail of 730 days child care leave.
The regime`s biggest achievement was the killing of the elusive Maoist commander Kishenji and the arrest of several Maoist leaders, enabling the security agencies to gain the upper hand.
But that is not the whole story.
Banerjee has drawn flak from many including her ally, the Congress, on a variety of issues ranging from perceived autocratic conduct to her habit of making sweeping remarks.
Thanks to all this, the Left has found plenty of issues to attack the government.
Banerjee`s opposition to government role in land acquisition for industry is not to the business captains` liking.
"Until there is an amicable solution to land policy, no big ticket investment will come in Bengal," economist Dipankar Dasgupta warned.
Banerjee`s obsession with erasing every inch of the left legacy and terming any opposition against the government as the handiwork of Left has not gone down well with people.
A strong advocate of freedom of expression while in the opposition, she has now ordered the removal of dailies critical of her from state-run libraries.
Police arrested a professor for circulating cartoons about her, provoking outrage.
The change of guard has also led to political killings, with the Left accusing the Trinamool of murdering Communist activists.
And although Banerjee`s Trinamool is part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, she has embarrassed the government many times, constantly earning her front-page coverage nationally.
"The government has done both positive and negative things. So it should not claim that it has (performed) 100 percent," state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya told a news agency.
Political scientist Sabyasachi Basu Rai Chaudhuri agreed in part, saying the government has a long way to go to fulfil people`s expectations after over three decades of Communist rule.
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