By Ashna Patil
On Tuesday, West Bengal decided to opt out of the Centre’s health insurance plan that seeks to provide health insurance to ten crore households. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee quoted the 40% contribution the state has to make as a reason, calling it a waste. “The Centre has drawn up a health plan in which 40% of the fund has to come from states. But why should the state spend on another programme when it already has its own? A state will have its own scheme if it has the resources,” she argued. In a state where hospitalisation is already free and fifty lakh people have been enrolled under the Swasthya Sathi program, Banerjee sees no reason to implement Modicare—as the insurance plan has been dubbed.
Mamata’s take on the government plans
At the same meeting, Banerjee also lambasted the Modi government over the allocation of a paltry sum for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojna. The scheme has financial allocations of Rs.100 Cr for the entire country, while Mamata claimed she spent 1,200 Cr for the same cause in just her state.
Banerjee additionally attacked the Centre for its policies pertaining to farmers, demonetisation, and GST. Alleging that the Centre had stopped funds for various schemes, she also threatened to launch a nationwide movement against the FRDI Bill and the Modi government if it did not change its “anti-people” policies.
All of this is part of a clear isolationist trend being undertaken by Banerjee ahead of 2018 panchayat elections. By focusing her energies on denouncing the BJP-led NDA, she is ensuring a nationwide distrust of the party. Almost all anti-BJP forces have acknowledged the relentless struggle Mamata Banerjee as a necessary force for maintaining a strong foothold in West Bengal and are vying to align themselves with it.
Clear alignment with primary interests
This distinction and alienation from the NDA are more important than ever now, with the Trinamool government dropping pretences of secularism and moving towards Hindu ideals lately. From conducting a ‘Brahmin and Purohit Sammelan’ and promising priests financial aid and cows to setting up of boards to renovate shrines in Kalighat, Tarapith and Tarakeswar and calling for Ganga Sagar Mela to be given the status of Kumbh Mela, the party is targeting the demographic most likely to vote for BJP. In this scenario with similar appeasement policies, differentiating itself from the NDA is essential- which is exactly what it is doing by rejecting Union policies.
BJP is nevertheless one of the main opponents in the panchayat elections and knows that the 70% of the electorate is composed of the rural areas. Reports of religious fissures have been emerging in these pockets, something unheard of previously; in case of religious polarisation, BJP stands to gain the most. The 2018 elections are on the path to the ones in 2019 and 2020, and Trinamool creating mass distrust against the NDA is a sure shot way of hampering its progress in every subsequent election.
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