The Times of India, December 24, 2013
Despite their dissatisfaction with the Trinamool Congress regime, the same set of people who had once voted for the Left Front, found Trinamool more preferable, said noted economist Pranab Bardhan in Kolkata on Monday. And Singur and Nandigram had a limited effect on the mandate, he feels.
Bardhan, a professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley, conducted a survey in Bengal in two phases to understand the behaviour of the voters. The first survey was conducted in 2004-05 and the second in end-2011, a few months after Trinamool’s historic win.
“We found that voters were dissatisfied with Trinamool, too, but not as much as they were with the Left. The only area where Left scored over Trinamool was in competence and judgment,” Bardhan said.
The survey, which will be made public soon, found that the same set of voters who voted for the Left switched in 2011.
More surprisingly, Bardhan found that the land acquisition agitations at Singur and Nandigram had a limited role in the 2011 mandate. “It is often thought that the Left lost because of Singur and Nandigram. But that was not true. These issues did not have much effect on people beyond 100km,” said Bardhan. “What mattered was people’s perception of local leaders.”
Bardhan, who is Kolkata to deliver 30th anniversary lecture of CUTS International, felt that the state’s successful episode of decentralization started when the Left went for land reforms. “Distribution of subsidized agricultural inputs in the form of mini kits were also examples of decentralization. And that happened during late ’70s and early ’90s,” the noted economist said.
Bardhan believes political parties perform better in terms of governance only when there is a close contest. Local governments get less active when they have a landslide victory, he said. He cautioned Trinamool against repeating the Left mistake of favouritism, which he termed ‘clientelism’. “Such acts have plagued long term projects in the Left Front and Trinamool regimes, he remarked.
“Regular auditing is rare in Bengal. Even a panchayat pradhan does not have any idea how much fund is allocated to which project. There is no formula and absence of any formula means allocations are whimsical,” Bardhan said