They may not like each other much, but Mamata and Modi have much in common

Romita Datta
Romita DattaFeb 22, 2018 | 10:57

They may not like each other much, but  Mamata and Modi have much in common

"Even roadside telebhaja shops can be a good venture." This is what Mamata Banerjee said in February 2015. She was talking about how a tea kiosk, a sweetmeat shop or a telebhaja joint can be considered business options by the unemployed youth of Bengal. She, however, desists from giving the unemployment figures for the state.

The telebhaja suggestion plopped in the scene three years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi could cook up the pakora lines, the scent of which is wafting a spicy controversy among the jobless youth of the country.


Borrowing a line, frequently borrowed from Gopal Krishna Gokhale by a contemporary Bengali political stalwart, this is a clear case of "what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow".Not only this, there are multiple instances of NDA-led Centre thinking on the same lines as the government in Bengal. Sadly, no credits are being attributed to the Bengal chief minister. The BJP is not even ready to acknowledge that "great men" think alike and fools seldom differ.

Take the case of Kanyashree - the state scheme aimed at empowering girls with a handsome stipend for pursuing higher studies instead of getting married at a young age. It was launched in 2013, exactly two years before PM Modi's "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao". Though controversy and confusion refuse to die as to which came first - the egg or the chicken - the fact remains both are similar in their intent.


The BJP might be claiming that BBBP is a better and more comprehensive policy bringing under its ambit the urgency to stop female foeticide, but the reality is that Kanyashree, being the first of its kind in stopping child marriage and school dropout, has won the hearts of the world winning Mamata the prestigious UN Public Service Day award for it in 2017.


The recent spat over Kanyashree and BBBP between the governor of West Bengal Kesri Nath Tripathi and Mamata and her cabinet cronies is again a clear indication that neither is willing to give credit to the other.

While Mamata thinks Kanyashree is unmatched in its scale and magnitude - Rs 5,000 crore as against Rs 100 crore yearly for BBBP, the Bengal governor thinks the constant drum-beating for Kanyashree is taking the wind or due credits away from Modi's scheme.

Another example of thinking on similar lines is the much-touted Modicare, which is straight out of Mamata's Swasthyasathi - a health protection insurance coverage of Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh (in case of critical illness) per year for 55 lakh people, rolled out in 2016.

Modicare may be a magnified Swasthyasathi, involving 10 crore families and 50 crore people, but Swasthyasathi covers 1,900 ailments, treatment of which can be done in all government and 500 notified private hospitals.

Both ambitious projects, however, have not taken into account the deficiency in infrastructure and the acute crisis of medical personnel. In Bengal, there is a shortfall of 33 per cent medical officers and doctors in the Directorate of Health Services and the picture is more or less similar across the country, where the doctor-patient ratio is 0.6:1,000. The thread of commonality runs beyond schemes and policy.


Both do not bother about plurality of opinions in a democracy, majority of their decisions are arbitrary, their exclusive brainchild.

Both are sensitive to criticisms, and reflect a poor sense of humour when the guffaw is on them, whereas they can choose to be extremely critical, often nasty, when it comes to pinning down somebody.When it comes to muscle-flexing, one struts around flaunting his 56-inch chest with a "Big Brother" attitude, the other prides in being a tiger, the royal Bengal tiger, who cannot be cowed down by agencies and the high-handedness of the Centre.

And talk of connecting with people, Modi's "Mann Ki Baat" and "Pariksha Pe Charcha" draw resonance from Mamata's administrative meetings in the district, where apart from bureaucrats, students and commoners cannot just listen, but also participate.

Mamata and Modi share a lot in common. They connect well with the masses, Mamata with her "ma-maati-manush", and Modi with "mitron". Being completely immersed in work, hardly dedicate anytime for their families. Both follow a strict and simple diet plan, and are committed to staying fit. Their handling of the press, and their ability to decimate the Opposition are much the same. Despite their similarities they appear as different as chalk and cheese.

However, their careers have the same story of sweat, blood, humiliation and painstaking struggle. Their stories underline the rise and rise of common men without the backing of a political dynasty - the almost fairytale-like saga of rags to riches of a chaiwala and a woman, who sat at Haringhata Milk booths to deliver milk bottles.

So close and yet so far - as Elvis Presley would sing.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: February 22, 2018 | 10:57
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