Vishwa Bangla to Vibrant Gujarat - A Study in Contrasts

Mamata Banerjee is living in denial. It is not her fault. Having had to fight political street fights for the better part of her life, protesting had become a way of life to her .

The paradox in Mamata's Politics was apparent when she hosted the Vishwa Bangla event last week along the lines of Vibrant Gujarat summit. It was a role she was distinctly uncomfortable with having to make the transition to CEO of Bengal from the numero uno street fighter of Bengal Politics.

While she may have been opposing Modi's development initiatives out of habit, Vishwa Bangla ahead of Vibrant Gujarat had one underlying political message - State Assembly elections are a year away and BJP's winning streak in State after State has her deeply worried.

This is the same Mamata Banerjee who with the promise of poriborton ended three decades of anti-development Left rule. But she turned out to be 'old wine in new bottle' who practised the same Left political culture which had plagued the State for more than 50 years.

She drove out Tata Nano and to where - the same State, model of which 'Vibrant Gujarat', she is trying to follow now.

Vibrant Gujarat was initiated long back in 2003 by then CM Narendra Modi to bring together business leaders, investors, corporations, thought leaders, policy and opinion makers, to understand and explore business opportunities in the State of Gujarat. Since 2003, seven such summits have happened which has already brought in billions of dollars of investment and thousands of billions of dollars have been promised to the State by various business leaders and countries.

Saurabh Patel, the Gujarat Minister who is in charge of organising the Vibrant Gujarat summit, said, 'In 2003, when the Vibrant Gujarat summit was first conceived. The State was passing through a crisis. We wanted to assure the business community of Gujarat's worthiness to get investment. Slowly we turned it into the investor’s hub and now, we want to make Vibrant Gujarat the global business hub. We want it to be as big as Davos.'

Mamata, who spent her life struggling to get inside the Writers building, after getting the opportunity, became so insecure that even a cartoonist's light-hearted attempt at criticising her Government invited her wrath! No wonder, she was miffed and a feeling of 'her platform being hijacked' must have seeped into her brain when PM Modi promised to back West Bengal in its efforts to woo investors. Not only did senior Cabinet Ministers of the Modi Government attend the Vishwa Bangla event, central agencies too followed it up pledging Rs 1.14 lakh crore investments in Bengal.

On comparison of Vishwa Bangla event with Vibrant Gujarat summit, TMC spokesperson Derek O'Brien dubbed the latter as optical illusion and hallucination over real execution.

Even State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury agreed with the popular opinion, 'I think Trinamool is suffering from inferiority complex. It's a feeling that Gujarat can; we can’t. Bengal isn’t only facing an investment crisis but there is a flight of capital here.'

Be it her stand against FDI in multi-brand retail, removal of Tata Nano from Singur, minimal land acquisition policy, her party's role in association with the Maoists during Nandigram protests or her anti-Special Economic Zones stand, all of which had reinforced negative stereotypes of Bengal in the minds of the investor class.

After earning the reputation of being 'Chief Obstructionist' for all these years, it will be difficult for Mamata to play 'Chief Salesperson' pitching West Bengal as prime investment destination. Whether it is fear of BJP or it is the urge to get Vishwar Bangla 'one-up' over Vibrant Gujarat, this makeover of Didi may end up being a case of 'too little' coming 'too late'.

Courtesy Niti Central



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