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Joyeeta Basu is the Editor of The Sunday Guardian.

Two feet in Bengal, thumbprint in Delhi

No one can say that Mamata Banerjee does not care for Bengalis. The lady who not too long had declared herself to be a citizen, and not resident, of West Bengal, was at the building collapse site in Delhi's Lalita Park last week, consoling the families of the victims, a majority of whom were migrant workers from her home state. She rushed to the site straight from the airport and made arrangements for the dead bodies to be sent back home. The Railway Minister's brief does not extend to buildings in Delhi, but Didi's gesture of standing by her people was greeted with much appreciation, particularly by those in Bengal, and justifiably. In fact, how many Union Ministers mouthed even a few words of condolence for the poor workers?

Flash back to 21 October 2009, the day the Goa Express rammed into Mewar Express in Mathura, an accident that left several passengers dead. The Railway Minister was nowhere to be seen, and it was left to her minister of state, E. Ahamed to supervise the operation to rescue the survivors. Mamata Banerjee offered explanation and announced compensation while sitting in Kolkata. She arrived later and that too after facing much criticism.

People matter, but to Bengal's Railway Minister her own people matter a little more. The shameless will say because they vote for her.

Mamata will become Chief Minister next year, unless something goes horribly wrong. The residents of West Bengal, starting from the poorest farmer to the rarefied intellectual, are tired of the jaded, corrupt Left and have found in Mamata their saviour, their knight in cotton sari and Hawaii chappal. Till the time she becomes Chief Minister it suits her to stay Railway Minister and take the rest of the country for a ride on her train to Writers Building. And that is the main problem. For it shows a basic lack of integrity towards the primary job she has been given, a job she is using as a means to an end. Worse, she is completely unapologetic about that.

Mamata is not doing the people of Bengal any favour by wearing her "patriotism" on her sleeve. She is bound by oath to dedicate herself to their cause. But she is no mere MP, her constituency is vaster than Kolkata South, or Bengal for that matter. The least the lady can do in the next one year before she shifts to Kolkata is devote a little more time to her job, and be seen to do so.

She has her two feet in Bengal and a thumbprint in Delhi, which has to change before she can be taken seriously. Bengal will vote for her, but she has to deserve their vote. And here we are not even getting into her brand of politics. Thirsting for change, the voter anyway has ceased to look at it critically.

Governance is more than having a corruption free image. Mamata can lead her cadres, but can she be a people's leader?

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