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Another year?

The administration in West Bengal is in a dangerous state of flux

Written by The Indian Express |
October 8, 2010 4:25:00 am

No tyrant is more oppressive than he who was oppressed till yesterday. In making clear and direct threats to the bureaucracy in West Bengal — notably,the two Central services of the IAS and the IPS — Union Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee hasn’t justified her promise of retribution for officers she and her party allege have acted as the CPM’s henchmen on that ground,but it isn’t hard to figure out the connecting logic. What no longer holds though is the image of the Trinamool activist as the perpetual victim. That IAS and IPS officers are leaving the state in droves,and many more are anxious to do the same,is because the Trinamool has never been so strong and looked as set to assume power. Now,that creates a problem unique to Bengal where the Left Front (or the CPM) had overshadowed everybody else for more than three decades.

Ever since last year’s Lok Sabha polls,the CPM’s hold has been slipping. Moreover,Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee seems to have abdicated administrative responsibility. If that hasn’t helped,Banerjee’s threats to the depleting bureaucracy,to say nothing of her additionally irresponsible calls for withdrawing Central forces from the Maoist-affected areas,are fast taking Bengal to the brink of a prolonged crisis. The state — thanks to cadre violence,Maoists,a moribund government,and an opposition that smells blood — is in a governance vacuum. At this rate,any transition,provided there’s one next year,could be chaotic and the next administration will have few senior and experienced bureaucrats to begin with.

Of course,at the root of it all lies the CPM’s unparalleled success in replacing government with party and keeping loyalists alone in administration and institutions. Banerjee,in screaming vengeance,is also opting for the easiest way — merely copying the CPM model of governance. Perpetuating this system of spoils and purges should be anathema for any corner of a democratic nation,least of all for a state in political chaos.

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