09:35 May 16, 2011
The elections results were on expected lines; the exception being Tamil Nadu where the DMK-Congress combine was widely expected to give a tough fight to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (AIADMK). In hindsight, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa turned out to be the best poll predictor as she had confidently proclaimed that her party would sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu and romp back to power with a great majority.
The rising women power in India is once again manifested in the victories of Didi and Amma. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s achievement has been incredible. She has been steadily building her case against the Communists in West Bengal for the last 30 years. The communists in fact tried every trick in their book to marginalise her. Few will remember that the communists had almost tried to murder her, and if they had their way they would have killed her, lynched her and decimated her. She re-built an organization where the Congress, which was opposition to the communist, vacated its place.
The gritty lady never gave up and managed to stay on track. In her victory speech she said, "This is a victory of democracy, victory of 'maa, maati, manush' (mother, land, people). We will give good governance.”
From my experience in IIT, Kharagpur, I can say although the communist ideology looks extremely good from outside, the reality was completely different. The communist party had institutionalised corruption. Whether it was for a job, or for opening a cigarette shop; for becoming a teacher, or becoming a coolie, you had no choice but to pay ‘hafta’ to the party. In Bombay or most other places, you end up paying ‘hafta’ to the underworld or the cops.
In West Bengal everything was routed to the party fund. Besides land reforms, which is worth a mention I really can’t recall any other initiatives which would have done many people good. Mr. Prakash Karat & Co. is no longer relevant to Indian politics and nobody bothers about their fate. In fact, even now, most of the communist leaders have links with China and they are anti-national. They are trying to hold the progress of India and are following an agenda set by the Chinese. Communist leaders in last 20 years got all capitalist habits like scotch single malt and cigars when earlier they were drinking mahua. But, to end their 34-year-old reign is an incredible message and I salute the people of West Bengal from ensuring that the Left is indeed left out.
In our recent ‘IIFL Enterprising India’ conference this year, Shekhar Gupta had clearly predicted that the Left will lose in Kerala and West Bengal and that the shape or the Indian politics will change. Now India will also slowly and steadily move towards a two party fight, because the Left Front will lose its relevance and its unlikely there will be a Third Front, led by the Left. Now it will be a battle between the Congress and the BJP. This will make Lok Sabha elections in 2014 extremely interesting.
The other thing is that no longer are people bothered about just money. They want development, jobs and prosperity. The common Indian citizens are very keen to fulfill their aspirations. Mamta Banerjee deserves her moment of glory. It is up to her to live up to the expectations of the West Bengal people and deliver her promises. To her credit, she is at least making all the right choices and has a good team of technocrats. If she wields her magic then West Bengal will again make a strong come back. “What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow” was a slogan made famous by the Bengali Intelligencia. Hopefully, the wheel has taken a full turn in West Bengal.
The only good thing about the Left was that they could speak very well; sometimes very rudely. I hope they now go back and do some serious soul searching and stop stalling the wheels of progress. I’m actually glad that the Congress lost the elections in Tamil Nadu. It’s not that Jayalalithaa is all squeaky clean herself. But, the DMK crossed all the limits with the Karunanidhi family amassing crores of rupees. They built a business empire out of nowhere at the expense of the tax payers and the common man. It had to come to an end some day. They had to pay a price for their sins. Otherwise the faith of the common people in the Indian democracy would have been shaken. Now I hope at least that the Congress will takes steps to remove corruption. This is a wake up call and the Congress should immediately start purging the systems of all evils. The key challenge for the Government now is to do some serious introspection and understand clearly that the audience wants performance, whether it is Narendra Modi in Gujarat or Nitish Kumar in Bihar.
Corruption does not pay. Politicians must realise that if you don’t keep change with the 21st century and are stuck to the ideas of the 20th century as it has been, you will be left behind without any doubt. I hope all politicians will learn from this election results. The markets also gave a grand salute to the assembly poll results as investors hope that the Government will take the much needed reform-oriented steps to push GDP growth to maybe 10% or even higher. The sector that needs reforms the most is infrastructure and land reforms. We have recently seen Rahul Gandhi going to UP and confronting Mayawati on the land acquisition issue of farmers. I think this is a key debate and land acquisition is another area where lot of corruption takes place. There is absolute lack of transparency. The Government needs to get its act together and pass the Land Acquisition Law.
My other important message is that land acquisition for building expressways and townships should be linked to quality of the land. Prime land, which is for agriculture next the Indo-Gangetic Delta, should be avoided for making housing townships. My reason is very simple - that land must be used for growing food. Food inflation will go up if more and more land is used for building factories and housing complexes. In the same breadth, even the Jaitapur land acquisition is a big issue because it is presently being used for growing Alphonso Mangoes. The Maharashtra government should not use that to build a nuclear plant and instead build a nuclear plant in Thar desert or at a place where there will be no risk of loss to human life in case of a nuclear disaster.