New Delhi: Trinamool Congress: For having evicted the cynical, manipulative and destructive Communist Party of India-Marxist from West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee’s party deserves no small credit. Critics, however, would say that that was a long time ago, and that there is no reason to be satisfied with her government since, which is not untrue. But the case of West Bengal is a little like the old Soviet Union in microcosm, so bear with it some more.

When the Communists were done with the Soviet Union, they had destroyed the spirit of free enterprise. A feudal society under the Czars, Russia after communism was entirely directionless, fashionability pushing it in the direction of destructive American capitalism, and the old kleptocrats pulling it towards a sort of mafia raj, in which the country’s huge dependence on oil and gas exports and the absence of grassroots multiparty democracy did not assist.

West Bengal remains tottery for not very different reasons. Decades of Stalinism destroyed its entrepreneurial culture, and choked democracy at the bottom, whose beneficiary, ironically, has been Mamata Bannerjee. But little is gained by cursing her, as the Bengali middle class that has departed the great state is wont to do. The alternative to Mamata is the reviled communists or the Congress run by thugs. Is this what the people of Bengal want?

So good or bad, the people have to work with the Trinamool Congress. It has been some months since this writer visited Calcutta but it is not the hellhole it was under the communists. West Bengal needs nurture to return to the glory days. It needs an entrepreneurial culture which can presently only be supplied by the rest of the country. West Bengal is not just another state. It is the gateway to the east and needs generous Central assistance, which is not forthcoming under the United Progressive Alliance government.

Are Mamata Bannerjee and the Trinamool not at fault at all? Surely, they are. But history also has been cruel to West Bengal since the time the Capital transferred to Delhi. Anyone else who had replaced the communists would find themselves in Mamata’s predicament. If there is a better alternative to her, the electorate must exercise that choice, but currently, there is none, although there is space for a solid national formation to grow in the state just as in Tamil Nadu.

But that is for the future. In the 2014 general election, this writer does not see a major upset in the state. Mamata’s Lok Sabha tally may suffer, and her ambition to remote control Central policies, at least insofar as they benefit her, will also receive a setback. But that is no reason to punish West Bengal. It has suffered enough and everyone must pitch in to give it a new beginning. Rating of the Trinamool Congress: 3 out of 10.

Akali Dal: Prakash Singh Badal must be savouring the moment as the Congress hurtles towards destruction in the national polls. By bringing up Indira Gandhi’s assassination in the campaign, Rahul Gandhi has returned attention to the tragedy of Operation Bluestar, which was a culmination of her anti-Akali Dal policies, these being triggered by the Dal’s opposition to the Emergency.

In any case, the Congress is a spent force in Punjab. In the last assembly election, it was widely expected to come back, but didn’t. Captain Amarinder Singh is a decent man, but the party itself is moribund in the state. Unlike the other dynasts though, Badal’s son, Sukhbir, has proved rather adept at the game, and the Akali Dal’s continued good performance may be owed in large measure to his political tactics.

But the key question is, has the Akali Dal powered Punjab’s growth in recent times? Not to the desirable extent, because you cannot, with the exception of the Gujaratis, get a more entrepreneurial people than the Punjabis and especially the Sikhs. The Akali Dal has returned to power only partly because of its inherent strength and more on account of the Congress’s weakness, which has become a national phenomenon. But it is not good for the party in the state or for gaining a national presence, such as in a place like Delhi.

The thing that the Badals must guard against is complacency, because it comes to cripple dynastic parties sooner than later. Politics must be joined with governance, because this is aspiring India’s principal demand from future leaders. This is the success of Narendra Modi. On the metric of delivery and governance, Punjab under the Akali Dal has fallen behind, and this needs serious introspection. Rating: 4 out of 10.

Janata Dal-United: Nitish Kumar has led the party into a hole by breaking up with the Bharatiya Janata Party, and this situation cannot be easily repaired. Looking back, it is astonishing that Nitish Kumar owed so much of his high profile and popularity to his association with the party he ditched, and his fall has been commensurately precipitate thereafter. The Muslims of Bihar may or may not go with Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party but if Nitish expected them to flock to his door in consequence of the divorce with the erstwhile ally, it has not happened. So stunned is Nitish with Modi’s rise that he has cocooned himself, resisted cabinet expansion out of fear of desertions, and has been operating through the bureaucracy out of some strange fear of the people. He was not on hand in some of the recent tragedies, including the bomb blasts at Modi’s Hunkar Rally and the midday-meal deaths of small children.

The media says the Janata Dal-United is split between trucking with the Congress and aligning with the Left-sponsored Third Front. Nitish Kumar is keen on the Congress whereas Sharad Yadav, the other party heavyweight although he does not belong to the state, prefers the status quo or joining the Left front. This front will smash up in the general election but Nitish loses more by going with the Congress. It is political history that whoever has allied with the Congress has been diminished. See the reduced stature of Sharad Pawar, Muthuvel Karunanidhi or even Mulayam Singh Yadav, battling a plummeting national graph.

Nitish Kumar no longer believes that baiting Narendra Modi will fetch extra votes, because there are many doing the same pony trick, but he has painted himself into a corner. He thought the Bharatiya Janata Party would choose him over Narendra Modi. This is called delusions of grandeur. Janata Dal-United’s rating: 2 out of 10.

Please also read, “The party begins...1”

To be continued...