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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was put on oxygen support on Tuesday after she developed breathing problems on the 23rd day of her fast. After having successfully persuaded Ratan Tata to locate Tata Motors’s small car project in Hooghly district’s Singur area, West Bengal Chief Minister  Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday said that he could not possibly ask the industrialist to retrace his steps. BJP chief Rajnath Singh met Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee and held Bhattacharjee for Mamata’s health. Earlier last week anxious at the health of Trinamool Congress chief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday requested her to end her hunger strike but she refused to budge. The prime minister sent his request in a communication through Information and Broadcasting Minister PR Dasmunsi as his emissary to the Trinamool supremo at her sit-in in Kolkata.

With fast deteriorating health, Mamata’s fast is clearly headed for the end game, Offstumped examines the likely fallout.

All eyes are on the man in the hot seat, the not so smiling Buddha, the man the mainstream media just a few months back hyped and marketed as a Brand Buddha. It is amazing how excited the boys and girls of Indian Mainstream Media get all excited when it comes to covering anything communist in a positive light. It was very instructive to see Brand Buddha being celebrated by the mainstream media just a few months back when the Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury lead CPI-M romped home in Bengal with absolute majority. Mamata Bannerjee was practically written off after that election, some in the media had written her off even before that election. The stormy petrel of Bengal politics like Uma Bharathi was known more for her histrionics than political acumen. But Offstumped has all along held the view that it was a tad unfair of the mainstream media to be so critical of Mamata.

Many of my fellow bloggers and seasoned right of center commentators in the media have taken issue with Mamata on Singur and have backed Brand Buddha. What with Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar keeping her company. Offstumped is stepping on controversial waters here in backing Mamata against Brand Buddha. Let us get into the underlying debate first to better understand this contrarian position.

First why is the media being unfair on Mamata. The reasons are manifold, primary being her earthiness and defying every stereotype there is out there of the Bhadralok. Her brand of politics is too raw for them to digest. But Offstumped believes that in a state which has been ruled by the Communists for over two decades, the fact that there is not a single male politician worth his salt who could challenge the communists, that fact alone should be reason enough to give Mamata’s brand of politics a very wide latitude. Look at who the Congress had for West Bengal State President – Pranab Mukherjee. This guy who never won a Lok Sabha election until 2004. Uninspiring, non-threatening barely visible Pranab Mukherjee who is the anti-thesis of a popular leader, was the president of the state congress. It speaks volumes about the state of the opposition on Bengal. So extreme and dire is the vaccum of leadership in Bengal that desperate times call for desperate measures. Hence you have brand Mamata – shrill and raw. In a state controlled by Masculine Communist Mafioso for over two decades and with no hope of a credible opposition emerging in the next decade either, the lone woman ranger should be forgiven for her lumpeness. Hence Offstumped believes the mainstream is being unfair to Mamata.

Now coming to the issue at hand in Singur. Offstumped is once again taking a controversial position in a departure away from my fellow bloggers and right of center commentators. Offstumped is opposing the manner in which the West Bengal Government granted Singur to the Tatas. Here is the rationale. Offstumped is a strong believer in economic reforms and industry dont get me wrong here. But first and foremost Offstumped believes in the cardinal principle of economic freedom. Economic Freedom not of Brand Buddha and the West Bengal State Government but Economic Freedom of the people of Singur. Offstumped has always believed that Local Communities not centralized Bureaucracies must be in control of the destiny. Decisions of the kind in Singur should be best left to the judgement of the community of Singur and should not be concieved and executed from Kolkota. So Offstumped’s opposition to Singur is not because of the Small Car Project being located in the fertile land of Singur but because the decision was made in Kolkota and not by the people of Singur.

So with Mamata’s health headed south what is the end game in Singur. Clearly the media and the West Bengal Government underestimated Mamata’s resolve. They expected the political tamasha to end after the usual song and dance. That unfortunately was not to be. As Offstumped had earlier predicted, Mamata was going for the jugular here placing the political bet of her life with her life. Now that things are at the brink how will this play out. Offstumped Buddha has shown the way out with his remarks “I will not ask Ratan Tata to retrace his steps”. What Buddha is in effect telling Ratan Tata is “I will not ask you to leave but you get the message, leave of your own accord and I will not stop you”. Buddha i hoping to take the politically convenient route here, by not appearing to the backdown but hoping that the problem goes away of its own accord.

Barring anything unforeseen happening to Mamata in the next couple of days, this is the most likely scenario that will play out. There will be long term ramifications of this scenario and this could mark the beginning of the end of the Congreess CPI-M bonhomie. The Singur issue has been marked by stony silence from Sonia. Not too long ago Sonia had called for the Congress to take on the Left in the States, but her call met with resistance from the Government which needed the Left to not rock the boat on the Indo-US Nuke deal and others. Sonia’s silence on Singur will be untenable and sooner than later the Party will trump the Government and we will see the chasm between the Left and the Congress widen. The Tata’s leaving Singur will be a big bloody red nose for the Left in their bastion. They will be far less forgiving of the UPA’s right leaning decisions going forward.

As far as the Tata’s go Offstumped has few tears for them. In fact Offstumped does not believe in bearing the water of Free Market economics for the Indian Business Houses. They have done little to further the cause of Free Market Economics in India. They have cut deals on all sides of the political divide based on convenience. Having done little to further the cause of Economic Freedom by working to support and sustan a political movement dedicated to its cause the Indian Business Houses should expect little by way of support when the politics gets to be inconvenient to them. So Offstumped’s message to the Businesses is

“Far too long have you supped with the devil to expect us to come to your aid. Demonstrate your commitment to economic freedom by supporting Right of Center Politics and only then will we come to your aid”.

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