Development over differences?
In yet another act of rapprochement, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said political differences between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress will not come in the way of development in West Bengal. “In terms of development of this country and the state, the political differences between the two will not matter and we will fully cooperate in the development and growth of the state of West Bengal,” he said at the inauguration of Bandhan Bank, a full-fledged micro-finance institution with 501 branches and 1.43 crore accounts across the country. This is a welcome announcement on the part of the Finance Minister, although questions remain whether his party will follow his words in the State. The first instance of rapprochement between the Centre and West Bengal government was followed by serious progress on a series of key decisions regarding Bangladesh, which includes the signing of the much-delayed Land Boundary Agreement.
The Centre’s decision to extend the proverbial olive branch to TMC comes at a time when Prime Minister Modi, in his bid to pass key legislation in Parliament, desperately needs the support of Banerjee and her party members in the Upper House of Parliament. The TMC has agreed to support the Goods and Services Tax Bill after questions surrounding certain provisions were answered to their fulfilment. To alleviate the State’s initial loss of revenue in the event of a Goods and Services Tax, the Centre has already sent two cheques for about Rs 1,000 crore to West Bengal as compensation for central sales tax. Supporters of the TMC must, however, remain cautious of the Centre’s designs, since the recent rapprochement followed a prolonged war of words between the BJP-ruled Centre and TMC-led government in West Bengal over the Saradha scam.
In seeking closer ties with the TMC, the BJP-led Centre has not only accepted the party’s dominant position in West Bengal politics, but also learnt that the best way to conduct legislative business with myriad of regional interests is to positively engage with them. One hopes that in the name of development, the Centre continues to positively engage with other regional interests. However, one should not pin his/her hopes on its continuity, with assembly elections due in 2017.