She may have decisively won the elections. But now, it’s time for the long, hard slog. There’s one minor problem though: more than three decades of Left rule may have left the state with a peculiar problem: a poverty of ideas on how to climb out of a gigantic hole. So here’s my proposal: why not look at a galaxy of advisors drawn from some of the most influential Bongs from outside the state to help Didi restore Bengal to its original glory? So let’s construct the Great Bong dream team to save Bengal. Here’s my pick:
Finance: Given the precarious state of finances, you’d need a real killer app on this one. Amit Mitra may already be the top contender for finance minister. But if he ever needs advice, I reckon it’ll be a close race between Purnendu Chatterjee, Udayan Bose or even D Basu, the former chairman of SBI. Among the younger brigade, there’s Sonjoy Chatterjee, the CEO of Goldman Sachs in India or even Ranodeb ‘Rony’ Roy, managing director of Morgan Stanley Asia.
Education: Amartya Sen, Bengal’s biggest global brand in academics, may be a tad too old to take on even an advisory role. And the other Great Bong economist Kaushik Basu is already firmly ensconced in the capital. So perhaps, there’s merit in looking at Abhijit Banerjee, professor of economics at MIT. Besides, his focus on developmental economics could gel quite well with Mamata’s party line Ma, Mati, Manush. To revive and expand good school education, I’d think of picking an honorary Bong: John Mason, who served at La Martiniere, St James and headed Doon School with great distinction.
Home: Two key challenges: the Naxalite threat and a politicised police force. I’d plumb for General Shankar Roy Choudhury, the former vice-chief of Army staff to deal with both.
Industry: Bong industrialists are a rare breed, but how about someone who understands how to design public policy to attract investment into the state? To my mind, there’s no one better than Dr Ashok Ganguly, former chairman of Hindustan Lever and a member of the by now defunct Investment Commission. (Allegations of insider trading may have consumed one other high-profile candidate, but let’s not go there.)
Science and technology: Kolkata was once the centre of the scientific community in India. Today, much of that sheen has completely disappeared. You can count on one man to bring back some of that edge: Shubho Bhattacharya, who has served as director at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research through the last decade.
Healthcare: If you’ve followed our science and tech coverage in Forbes India, the chances are that you’d know about Dr Mriganka Sur, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists from MIT? He’s already begun devoting some of his research time in India. So why not grab him to help resurrect the crumbling public health system? (Disclaimer: Perhaps there are more competent administrators tucked away inside UK’s National Health Service (NHS) that I don’t know of).
Media: This is Bengal’s real export to the rest of the country. And there’s an embarrassment of riches on this one. Especially when you have Bongs at the helm of the two biggest newspapers in the country: Joydeep Bose (Jojo), the editorial director at The Times of India and Sanjoy Narayan, the editor-in-chief at Hindustan Times. Both know the business community in Mumbai well and also what it’ll take to reverse the flight of capital out of the state. Besides, they know what it takes to keep us hacks happy!
Infrastructure: The Kolkata airport is an eyesore and the industrial clusters across the state need urgent attention. I’ll be accused of nepotism if I even suggested Vinayak Chatterjee, the founder of Feedback Infra. So I’ll pass on this one.
Music, Tourism, Entertainment, Art and Culture: Bongs like me need to fall in love with Kolkata all over again. So maybe, a couple of brand ambassadors to lead a strong tourism campaign could do the trick. Back in Mumbai, Shreya Ghoshal and Konkona Sen Sharma should certainly be on that list. So would Jhumpa Lahiri. (And it’s time both ends of the spectrum—Hindustani classical music and modern Bong rock—get more recognition. Can you think of any candidates who’d be good role models?)
Small and Medium Enterprises: In my book, Anjan Chatterjee of Mainland China fame is the best poster boy for Bong entrepreneurship. And he loves feeding the masses. Count on him to reignite the spark on the food front—and get the tourists thronging to the city once again.
IT and BPO: Planned well, this could be Bengal’s real competitive edge. And while there may be some options on this one, I’ll be partial to our Forbes India columnist on this one. So Subroto Bagchi, the co-founder at Mindtree. Another worthy candidate: BPO entrepreneur Raman Roy.
Sports: There’s no debate on this one. Can there be anyone better than Dada.
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me who would you pick for your dream team to save Bengal.