The Unmaking of 'Mamata Phenomenon'

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New Delhi: Some words turn prophetic in politics. Some years ago Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had said that while Mamata Banerjee had leadership quality, her arrogance and high-handedness would be the cause of her downfall.
This is perhaps a major factor that is working in favour of the BJP today in West Bengal. And of course, the saffron party leaders are not hiding the glee. It has certainly increased its base in the onetime Marxists’ bastion and in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP’s vote share had shot up to 40.64 per cent.
West Bengal polity is certainly heading towards a summer of despair and hope and in this backdrop came BJP national president J P Nadda’s visit. Of course, the BJP has support among Hindu voters. Besides other factors like Mamata Banerjee’s supposed ‘arrogance’, her virtual freehand to nephew (Bhaipo) Abhishek and alleged corruption saga; Didi’s indiscriminate minority appeasement is a real game-changer.
The attack on Nadda's convoy is only a testimony to the changing dynamics of Bengal politics.
To many, a similar situation prevailed even five years back; but this time unlike 2016, the BJP is the main competitor to Trinamool Congress’s popularity. The Congress and the Leftists are already marginalised and they could come together this time yet again. The pro-Mamata forces including the ‘secularism-smitten’ intellectuals may hope that that the Trinamool leadership has every reason to win a third consecutive term, others believe the ensuing assembly elections may throw up a major surprise.
As stated above, the reasons are many. In terms of credibility vis-a-vis corruption charges, nothing has affected Mamata’s image in a worse manner than the Saradha chit fund scam and Narada videotape expose. Many of her colleagues have been jailed and it is ironic that onetime an image of anti-Marxists’ force (Mamata) is today considered having turned herself into a more Leftist than the Left especially when it comes to pander the Muslims.
Thus Nadda has reasons when he said while Mamata regime allowed Eid celebrations and Muslim processions, it slapped restrictons on Durga puja and on August 5, 2020 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done Bhoomipujan at Ayodhya.
Muslims constitute around 30 per cent of the state's voters and can influence the outcome in 115 to 120 assembly segments. In 2019 polls, BJP wrested 12 seats from Trinamool kitty. There is understanding in political circles that the Muslim community had voted 'en masse' for Mamata’s party.
There are certain personal tales in Mamata’s life and they provide interesting penetrating political points too. Mamata Banerjee was once admired by the likes of Congress veteran Siddharta Shankar Ray for her die-hard anti-Left politics. Mamata’s close aides would never hesitate to remind that at one point of time, she was a blue-eyed lady of two the then Prime Ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
With the incumbent Prime Minister too, the initial efforts on the part of Modi were to have a good working relationship.
The Prime Minister in his maiden Lok Sabha speech on June 11, 2014, addressed her as ‘Didi’ and lauded her good works, Mamata always remained a defiant leader.
Bengal watchers say she erred on two fronts. She kept her personal ambition at an unreasonable scale even refusing to meet the elected Prime Minister. She presumed opposing Modi for anything and everything under the sky would give her the leadership of ‘secular forces’. On the other hand, she started sidelining her senior colleagues and ‘mass level’ leaders like Sisir Adhikari and his son Suvendu and instead promoted the likes of Dinesh Trivedi and Derek-O’-Brien who developed close affinity with her ‘Bhaipo’ Abhishek Banerjee.
In her desperation to fight Modi, she started the game of hatred – a real dangerous sport in politics. In the process, she indulged in open carelessness and her party started encouraging Bangladeshi infiltrators. She allegedly started hating and insulting Hindus and the Hindu culture resulting in people getting worried whether they could still celebrate Durga Puja. The words ‘Ram Dhanu’ and ‘Krishna Kali’ started irritating her. Urdu became her preferred language and our Didi almost turned into ‘aapa’.
The mix of political appeasement towards minorities, corruption and promotion of goondaism has yielded her temporary benefits. In the 2018 local elections, she banked heavily on violence and opposition candidates were even prevented to file nominations.
But once the Bengali voters could see through her machinations, they knew what to do. An overwhelming number of them have turned towards the BJP. This unnerved Didi further and she started making more mistakes and helping more consolidation in favour of the saffron party.
Analysts say this factor is not working for them in neighbouring Odisha as Naveen Patnaik has not done anything to displease Hindu voters.
Many say, the saffron party leaders are aware of the pro-Leftist ‘Bengali mindset’, and thus they have drawn out a few specially worked out electoral strategies to capture the minds of voters.
The BJP leaders are more talking about mundane issues - jobs, women safety, law and order chaos, development and industrialisation. And as of now these are making sense!