The Indian state of West Bengal (WB) is having its Berlin Wall moment. After a long reign of 34 years, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) has lost the state assembly elections. Mamata Banerjee’s (currently the Union Railways Minister) Trinamool Congress has garnered a landslide victory, giving Friday the 13th a new meaning.
Historically a front-runner among states, WB has reached an unpleasant low in terms of development and its finances. The Red government has brought WB to a state of debt where the state has, in recent times, not been unable to make even its payroll. The state finances are in such a dire state that the debt burden of WB increased 29% in one year and stood at Rs 192000 crore in 2010.
While it is not impossible, it is not going to be easy given that her actions drove the Tata Nano plant in Signur into the waiting arms of Narinder Modi in Gujarat. She also campaigned on a largely anti-industry platform during the elections. She is rumored to have a pro-industry Finance Minister (AmitMitra, FICCI Secretary) lined up to jump start the progress. Will her Government continue the campaign rhetoric or will it make hard choices on the State’s finances? As the Red flag goes down and the Green (the color of Trinamool Congress as well) flutters in WB, will companies return to West Bengal?
For the better or worse, her government faces stiff competition from its immediate neighbor to show quantifiable progress. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, who similarly came to power defeating the long-reigning Lalu Prasad Yadav has managed to deliver on his promises and the once poverty stricken state now boosts of almost a 10% growth rate. Not only that, he has managed to slow down the crime rate and build a cleaner image for his state. Once a place that scared away its own people, Bihar is now beginning to see a return of the diaspora. Industries are eyeing the natural resources rich state that now seems to have a functional government. Nitish Kumar is being hailed as the face of new India, of a clean government. Can Mamata Banerjee, achieve a similar makeover in WB?