New Delhi: This may appear counter-intuitive. But Bengal and Mamata Bannerjee have to re-engage one another if the state is to be saved. The special circumstances of West Bengal lead to this conclusion. Returning the Community Party of India (Marxist) to power won’t answer Bengal’s problems but exacerbate it. The Congress has no vision for the state, is led by thugs, and is a dead force. Mamata Bannerjee has her faults, but Bengal has to make the best of her. There is no other way.

The redeeming quality about Mamata Bannerjee is that she is well-meaning. She is not corrupt or double-faced. That she lacks governance skills was known before she became chief minister. Yet Bengal chose her. It chose her for a reason. The CPI-M had become a curse. It was unable to lift Bengal from its morbidity and backwardness. Its vote-grabbing machine had penetrated to the smallest para hampering free choice. Mamata broke Bengal’s bondage to the Left. It is not a small matter. It deserves praise.

Where Mamata faltered was in her inability to put together a good governance team. She had raised sky-high expectations of change in Bengal, and when change could not be brought in the shortest possible time, as the electorate demanded, the unraveling of popular support began. Besides the lack of a good team, she chose opportunists to represent her party in Delhi. The media was always against her, but she did not develop the skills to humour it, and then to take command of it, as every administration does. Her dictatorial ways were too transparent, when success in such matters comes from stealth. See how cleverly the United Progressive Alliance manages the press.

Besides the media, Mamata also made powerful enemies in the opposition parties, and got on the wrong side of the venal rulers of Delhi. Having been in the Congress most of her political life, Mamata should have known how the party operates. It cannot and will not let another party succeed. Its success lies in trampling over others. Name one party which has prospered politically in alliance with the Congress. The Dravida Munnetra Kazagham, the Nationalist Congress Party, Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Ram Vilas Paswan’s formation, to name a few, have all suffered by associating with the Congress. How did Mamata expect her fortunes to improve being part of the UPA? She left it, and the vindictiveness of Delhi reached a peak against her and Bengal, culminating, in one way or another, with the Planning Commission incident.

This is not to say Mamata Bannerjee is faultless. But it is not all gloom and doom in Bengal under her. This writer visited Calcutta in February. The immediate impressions have already been conveyed. But it is important to add that Calcutta is not dying as it was in the 1990s. It is thriving. It is slowly finding its feet. And here and there, you find evidence of the good work done by Mamata Bannerjee. The Centre is slowly choking Bengal to death because it wants to avenge Mamata’s departure from the UPA. Make no mistake. Delhi can be -- and is -- murderously vengeful. Nearly 80 per cent of Mamata’s problems emanate from a vengeful Centre. About 15 per cent more comes from a media that has taken an intense dislike to her, both the national and the state media. The Congress hand is evident in this. But ultimately, it is for Bengal to see through the game to destroy Mamata Bannerjee, because if she goes down, the state will lose its biggest force of change. Like it or not, Mamata represents change. Not for her the status quo.

So Bengal for its own good should call a truce with Mamata Bannerjee, engage and discuss, and draw up a vision for the state. Bengal needs Mamata Bannerjee as she needs Bengal. This is not a romantic analysis. If Mamata fails, Bengal is doomed. As said earlier, the CPI-M cannot return Bengal to glory. A good man, the CPI-M, however, is going nowhere under Prakash Karat. Its best leaders, including a former Kerala chief minister, have been mauled by power-brokers. The CPI-M’s Bengal unit is in the mould of the Society of 10 December that Marx railed against. The Congress’s best-known leader is a street-fighter called Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. There is no hope from there.

To repeat, Mamata Bannerjee has committed blunders. But for its own good, Bengal must give her a second chance. It must not be trapped in the games played by Delhi.