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Decoding Mahua Speak In Bengal

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Winds of change seem to be blowing within the Trinamool Congress(TMC),  a single-personality driven party , not exactly renowned for its   inner party democracy. These days  the TMC  resembles a fresh new Liberty  Hall, where people talk freely about the shortcomings  of their leaders without fear  of ‘Didi’ or Big S ister watching.

After Ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Sadhan Pande, it was  the turn of high profile Trinamool Congress(TMC) MP from Krishnagar, Ms Mahua Moitra to speak out against corruption and mismanagement among her  colleagues. In a recent video that went  viral, she took on TMC’s Nadia district leaders head-on.   For some time now, she has been gunning  against them in her bid to improve the TMC’s functioning .

A few days ago,  she proposed several major changes in the district party organisation, her second such effort in recent times. The first time, entrenched old timers who find her style somewhat  pushy and over- ambitious,  stalled her bid for  change.   Nothing daunted , even as the state administration lurched from one  Post Corona/Amphan crisis to the next, she decided to  have another go. .

  The results have been predictable.  The TMC leadership ,responding to the familiar howls of protest from the old guard,  is yet to endorse  the   changes Ms  Moitra  suggested .   Perhaps the gnomes at Kalighat/ Tailaja  feel that the 2021  Assembly elections are  too close already, for any  inner party  regroupings within the TMC.   

Taking umbrage, she has spilled the beans about how  local panchayat leaders . On average  they receive about  Rs 10 crore to ensure local development at the individual gram panchayat level   over a 5 year period . Yet they   miserably failed to spend the allotted  sums , she said.  Instead of  improving/widening  important link roads that could serve people and ease the  movement of goods  and traffic, only  short,  narrow link roads/lanes  were  ‘improved’ , to serve the egos of local TMC honchos. To avoid e-tendering and official scrutinies, scores of tiny  projects involving minimal expenditure were  carried out, leaving larger tasks urgently needed for local development on the back burner !   (So much for the tall claims  about ‘the success of e-governance  in Bengal,’ with dues apologies to Minister  Amit Mitra !)   

’If only the allotted funds  were spent more wisely, keeping  the urgent needs of local development in view, not a single road in Nadia would have remained ‘kutcha’ today!’ she lamented.

As with Pande and Mukherjee before Ms  Moitra, TMC leaders  played down her outburst.  No one ever mentioned  the need for  inner party discipline. Their supremo, the Chief Minister who normally  comments on the social media about everything happening from  Kashmir to Kerala, remained  inscrutably silent .

Mukherjee, fighting off obvious discomfiture at the criticism  of Panchayats , said  Ms  Moitra might have been talking about problems in Nadia. And no thanks,  he would not like to speak to her about the issues she had raised. Other party spokesmen at various fora  put a brave face on Moitra’s video. One even claimed  that at least it indicated there WAS  democratic functioning within the TMC !

Speculation about the timing and substance of Ms Moitra’s  public criticism of her party’s failures continue. A TMC Minister  as  reported in a local paper  ,was  surprised that the politically savvy MP  did not raise such matters within the party earlier. Could her  message  that the ‘people would judge the record of local panchayat leaders ‘  , was intended  as a warning to the party’s leadership  ?  

 However, there was another   explanation which  went unreported in the Bengal press/media.

Ms Moitra had in a hard hitting  Lok Sabha speech that had  caught the attention of BJP leaders,   strongly criticised Delhi  for not helping Bengal financially. Later in his reply, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  had referred to some points raised by her.   

Specifically, he had pointed to the inability of certain Ministries  in Bengal to spend their allotted sums in time, or to present  the details of local  expenditure incurred   in development projects, apart from other procedural  lapses and  inefficiency.  He  also mentioned the failure of  elected civic  bodies  to implement  officially approved projects in time. Mr. Modi had concluded with a suggestion to Ms Moitra to  take up such issues  with the state’s Chief Minister and  help  improve the administrative functioning in Bengal. Securing financial help from Centre was never a  problem, he insisted.

The question arises : Was Ms Moitra    replying to the Prime Minister in her video  or was she serving a warning to her own party leaders ?

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