There’s no better glue than the cement of commerce. And the bonhomie between Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Global Bengal Business Summit in Kolkata is, therefore, not all that unexpected. Batting for ‘cooperative federalism’ and leaving behind, at least temporarily, erstwhile political rivalry, both Jaitley and Banerjee showed a stellar display of mutual cooperation and an eagerness to bridge the trade gap. It was heartening to see commercial compulsions and the need for development in West Bengal trump political and ideological differences for once.
Moreover, the spirit of cooperation and the underlining of Good Governance to mean responsible and responsive centre-state relations, as exemplified by the discussions held at the summit, bode well for attracting top industry captains to come and invest in West Bengal. Jaitley’s insistence that the eastern state will benefit from centre-driven reform measures such as coal block auctions and GST implementation is commendable, as is his pointing out the fact that the federal thrust of the newly formed Niti Aayog is likely to give a better financial hand to the states. For the longest time, the states had begrudged the now defunct Planning Commission’s ‘high-handed’ approach while allocating funds, creating investment bottlenecks and trampling on infrastructure development.
However, the ongoing summit has proved that dialogue can win over differences if shared goals, those of spurting growth and investment as well as creating more jobs, are kept in mind. West Bengal is in dire need of financial packages to achieve its industrial, mining and manufacturing potentials. Moreover, the state, in step with the times, is trying to give wings to its aspirational classes while also trying to bring the economically weaker sections, particularly from minority communities, out of vicious poverty traps. The business summit, therefore, comes at an opportune time since West Bengal can do much with cooperative federalism, not just in theory but in also practice.