What makes Mamata Banerjee the unbeatable leader despite violence and corruption In Bengal?

Sayantan Ghosh
13 May 2022
What makes Mamata Banerjee the unbeatable leader despite violence and corruption In Bengal?

Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has completed one year of her third term as the CM of the state. In the past year, Bengal has witnessed increasing political violence and corruption cases. But amid all the controversy in every election, the ruling Trinamool Congress has received historical mandates. The reason behind the success of Mamata Banerjee is her unique governance model. The key to this governance model is several direct cash transfer policies with an immense focus on women.

In the larger political sphere of India, analysts point out that Mamata Banerjee and her politics are appeasement-centric. But West Bengal is a state with a Muslim population of around 27%, and the state's politics will almost certainly reflect this.

However, the majority of her schemes are not specific to any religious community. The welfare schemes of Mamata Banerjee are populist in nature. Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu, Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi have also worked on such populist welfare schemes. Financial assistance, direct cash transfers, government loans, freebies, and subsidies are the fundamental ideas behind such policies.

It is also pertinent to note that the politics of Bengal is at a very crucial juncture. The main opposition party in Bengal is the BJP, which will never get the support of the minorities, which is a quarter of the state population. Similarly, the Left and Congress are in a deplorable condition. They neither have the organizational strength nor the leadership to pull off the show. In this situation, Mamata Banerjee is presenting a number of pro-welfare populist schemes and policies aimed at women and minorities of Bengal.

Banerjee has become an unbeatable leader in Bengal due to the combination of these factors, as well as her unique style of mass communication and politics.

Focus on Cash Transfer Schemes

After coming to power in 2011 by uprooting the 35-years of Left rule, Mamata Banerjee focused on revamping the economic polity of Bengal. Under the Left regime, the finance department was under Asim Dasgupta, an MIT PhD holder in economics. The economic policies of the left have many limitations. Moreover, the 35-year rule of the regime brought stagnation in changing the policies.

Banerjee appointed Amit Mitra as her finance minister. Mitra was a new-age economist and former secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). He amalgamated the populism of Banerjee with economic policies.

The Mamata Banerjee government introduced several populist welfare schemes like Kanyasree, Rupyasree, Sabooj Sathi, Lakshmir Bhandar, and many more. Banerjee announced free uniforms for students and introduced several scholarships to boost education. The government provided Rs 10,000 to students who study in class 12 to purchase a smartphone or tab for online classes during the pandemic.

Banerjee also brought schemes like direct cash transfers to farmers, standardisation of all pension schemes, and a dearness allowance hike for state government employees. The government also provides financial help to unemployed youth.

Similarly, the Bengal government introduced the Swastha Sathi scheme. This scheme is in line with the Pradhan Manti Jan Arogya Yojana. It ensures free health care coverage of Rs 5 lakh per year per family.

Focus On Women

Around half of the electorate of Bengal is comprised of women. Mamata Banerjee and TMC received around 47% of women's votes in the last election. Banerjee puts a focus on policies to empower women. For example, Bengal has direct cash transfer schemes for girl students. The government also provides bicycles to the girl students to ease their travel to and from school. Mamata Banerjee also ensured financial aid to the girls who wanted to get married.

Before the 2021 assembly elections, Banerjee promised to bring in the largest cash transfer scheme of the Bengal government, named Laxmi Bhandar. Under this scheme, the Bengal government directly transferred Rs. 500 per month to women of the general category and Rs. 1000 per month to women of the reserved category.

Focus On Minorities

A quarter of the Bengal electorate is Muslim. Before the 2021 election, the BJP aggressively pushed their Hindutva, which irked a significant section of the community and also the liberals. The Muslim vote for Banerjee has now completely consolidated. In the last election, the Left and Congress got zero seats. Two traditionally Congress-leaning Muslim-majority areas have shifted to the TMC.

Similarly, Banerjee has been giving a good focus on minorities. The West Bengal government provides term loan schemes to people from minority communities. Banerjee has introduced a programme called the minority women's empowerment programme where a subsidy of up to Rs.15,000 is given to each beneficiary. Here, women's self-help groups are encouraged to undertake income generation activities. Similarly, the Bengal government educational loans upto Rs 2 lakh for minority students, merit-based means scholarships, and post-matric scholarships (from class 11 to Ph.D.).

Along with these populist welfare schemes, Mamata Banerjee has an unparallel street fighting capability. This distinguishes her and allows a large number of people to rely on her. When Banerjee took to the streets against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, she received support from people across the spectrum. In the last year, Bengal has witnessed many incidents of violence. Several allegations of corruption have come up against the ruling party leadership, but amid all these, Mamata Banerjee has stayed unbeatable. In Bengal's current politics, the TMC and Mamata Banerjee have become irreplaceable.

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