KOLKATA: Apologizing for calling strikes and shutdowns during her days as an opposition leader, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee Monday appealed to the masses to foil the industrial strike called on Feb 28 and assured that the government would take stringent action against those who tried to implement the strike forcefully.
"We (Trinamool Congress) had earlier done the same mistake by calling for strikes and shutdowns. We later realized that a problem cannot be solved by calling a strike. In the last two years, we have not called a single strike," said Banerjee in an interview that was telecast on three Bengali news channels.
"We committed a mistake and have rectified it. We think the people have forgiven us for our mistake. I appeal to the masses of my state not to respond to this strike. A strike will rob daily labourers of their earnings," said Banerjee.
While assuring the masses that the government had taken necessary steps to keep trains, trams and buses running, Banerjee accused the Left parties of calling the strike in order to prove their political mettle.
"If any government staff takes part in the strike, then the government will take steps. All government employees should attend their respective offices. The former Left Front government used to help in making the strike a success. But we will not do it," said Banerjee.
The government has also issued circulars barring government employees from taking leave on the day of the strike.
Eleven central trade unions, including INTUC, BMS, CITU, AITUC, UTUC, AIUTUC, HMS, TUCI and NLO will participate in the Feb 28 general shut-down, demanding steps for controlling the rise in prices of essential commodities and creation of more employment opportunities.
"This politics of shutdown and strikes have crippled the state for the last 35 years. When I am trying to usher development for the state, the opposition is trying to create problem," she said.
"If the pro-strike protestors try to implement the strike forcefully then the government will act accordingly in order to keep everything normal. Nobody should force the common people to participate in the strike," said Banerjee.
Once I heard the anchorman in a Taiwan talk show mocked a president candidate who had announced to quit politics repeatedly, to the effect: "Commoners never taste of death but once. Politicians die many times before their deaths"
But hats off to the CM, as in politics one shall always be ready to go back on her/his words and make 'corrections' again and again. Voters are normally forgetful. A flaw is she could have made the U turn a bit less abrupt.