Mamata's 100 days: Cheers and some sneers
Kolkata: The state could soon get a new name, teachers receive salaries on the first of every month, Darjeeling is quiet after a tripartite pact and the Singur Act has been passed -- the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal has set a hectic pace as it completes 100 days in office on Saturday.
But, even as kudos fly, a section of parties and analysts in West Bengal, which could soon be Paschimbanga with all parties agreeing to it as a first step, are apprehensive about several decisions of the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government that took charge May 20 after ending the 34-year Left Front rule.
Accustomed to a regimented coalition providing collective leadership year after year, people have found the new Chief Minister's individualistic style of functioning radically different. Her shadow looms large over decisions and it is her, directly in charge of eight departments, who makes public government decisions through the media.
Endeavouring to emerge as the common person's chief minister, Banerjee still resides in a single-storeyed residence in a dingy South Kolkata lane and travels with a short convoy that stops at all red lights. She keeps an 18-hour schedule six days a week, forcing senior officers to come to office even on Saturdays.
Not all her initiatives have been without controversy. The Singur bill was enacted to return 400 acres of land from within the abandoned Tata Motors Nano plant premises to the unwilling farmers - the backbone of Banerjee's successful movement against land acquisition during the LF rule.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Front alleged that the act was full of loopholes, making it impossible for farmers to get back land.
Their stand was somewhat vindicated with the Supreme Court giving a stay on handing over land to the peasants till the ongoing case challenging the act was disposed of.
The Darjeeling tripartite agreement of July 18, signed between the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the state and union governments, also came in for flak with the Communists saying it was a step towards division of the state.
"No Bengal government since independence has violated the parliamentary rules and regulations more than this government," CPI-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb said.
LF partner Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) was for giving more time.
"Hundred days are too early to assess a government, though many decisions including the Singur Act and the Darjeeling treaty betrayed haste," RSP state secretary Khshiti Goswami said.
The GJM was also apprehensive.
"The government has taken positive decisions like the Darjeeling pact. But it remains to be seen whether these decisions are implemented," GJM leader Harka Bahadur Chhettri said.
On the economic front, Banerjee used her bargaining skills to garner a financial package of Rs 21,614 crore, including a grant-in-aid of Rs.9,240 crore, for the economically-stressed state from New Delhi.
"They have done several positive things on the economic front to revive the state. But I think they should present a full-fledged budget rather than vote on account," said economist Bipul Malakar. The state government has so far refused to present a full-fledged budget, saying votes on account presented by the previous and the present regime were enough.
"I think she is trying to do something positive and working hard," said eminent writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
"What she has done over the last 100 days is not only magnificent but also a historic record," Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Shekhar Ray said.
The formation of a large number of committees to decide policy matters has been a key feature of the Trinamool government. Amongst them, the Presidency Mentor Group, chaired by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grandnephew Sugata Bose, has hogged the limelight.
Teachers, who received their salaries late every month during LF rule, are now a happy lot. They receive the cheques on the first of every month. Besides, Banerjee has been making regular surprise visits to hospitals to improve services and various other government departments to improve discipline.
Banerjee has also announced that her government will create a million job opportunities over the next two years. She has also proposed an end to bandhs (strikes) and political marches that hurt the common man's movement and affects his or her daily livelihood.
Political analysts seem cautious. "It's a good start, but there is a lot of unanswered questions on issues like the Singur bill and Darjeeling pact," said political scientist Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri.