FE Editorial : Managing Mamata

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Dec 31 2011, 06:18am hrs
That the BJP would oppose the Lokpal Bill, and try to keep on Anna Hazares right side while opposing much of what he proposed, was well known from the time the government introduced the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha. It was also known that the UPA didnt have the requisite numbers in the Rajya Sabha, so it was always going to be touch and go. What has come as a shock, however, is the behaviour of UPAs mercurial ally Mamata Banerjee. After her party voted for the Bill in the Lok Sabha, she did a volte-face and said shed oppose it in the Rajya Sabha. If this was the first time Mamata has derailed something the government had its heart set on, you could ignore it. Mamata has, however, made the government back down on issue after issue, starting from pulling out of the PMs trip to Bangladesh on the Teesta water issue to getting it to put off retail-FDI, the Pension Bill, postpone the Land Acquisition Bill While the UPA has to keep finding ways to engage Mamataone complaint, right or wrong, of hers has been that the government does not engagebut perhaps it needs to look at a new strategy. The strategy of giving her goodies for West Bengal doesnt seem to be working since, the day she got a R8,750-crore package, is the day she was most vociferously opposing FDI in retail.

Our lead columnist today, CMIEs Mahesh Vyas, points out to how, while the number of fresh investment proposals is down to around half of what it used to be over the last four yearsR10 trillion of new investments were announced in 2011 as compared to R18-20 trillion in the pastthe amount of investment thats likely to be completed during the year is just marginally lower than last year. Indeed, Vyas points out, the pipeline of investment projects is so high, India doesnt really need to look for new projects for quite some time. In other words, for now, the governments efforts need to be centred around helping the implementation of projects, and not so much on new reforms. For those who think this is a very tough call, its a good idea to see how, in a very short period of time, the National Highways Authority of India has turned around and is now in a position to hand out 20 km of road contracts each day, and at huge profits for the government. Another such idea to work on, and pilots are going on in Jharkhand at the moment, is to see how to extend the use of Aadhar in delivering public services. That doesnt require crossing swords with either the BJP or Mamata.