Didi Returns, Mamata 3.0: I Am a Street Fighter, Hum Darta Nahi, Ladta Hai

  • | Monday | 3rd May, 2021

Mamata, the TMC supremo, successfully took on the BJP juggernaut led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah besides a battery of national and state leaders.

The most awaited and discussed election in Bengal has finally come to a conclusion. India’s only female Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has hit it hard again the third time with gaining 215 out of 294 seats.  However, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who was contesting against BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, conceded defeat. She alleged the Election Commission (EC) changed results in Nandigram, but said she is happy as the “people of Bengal have saved the country”.

With almost all votes counted, it appeared she may have lost her own assembly seat in a tight race, but that will not stop her from becoming chief minister.

TMC turning points

Women power:

There were two clear turning points in the election. One was Banerjee’s injury sustained in Nandigram on March 10 after which she began her campaign in a wheelchair and blamed the BJP for the trauma. Though the BJP made light of her injury as a “sympathy-gaining drama”, the image seems to have worked on the ground especially amongst the women voters. Her iconic image of sitting alone on a dharna in Kolkata for several hours after a one-day ban by the Election Commission further reinforced the perception that she was under attack from all sides and had been left alone.

The violence during polls:

The second major turning point was the Sitalkuchi firing incident on the day of the fourth phase of polling when four Muslim boys were killed in poll-related violence in firing by central security forces. This incident gave Banerjee a chance to rally the Muslim voter behind her and she went to Sitalkuchi to give the message that she was the sole savior of the community.

Lack of Management:

Though the BJP made claims that it has committees on 85% of the booths in the state and had made rapid progress in building up its organization in Bengal, the same did not reflect in the villages where an odd BJP flag and poster was present but there was a lack of local leaders. The TMC instead was a well-oiled machine, specializing in the “last-mile delivery of the vote” when it mattered while the BJP did not have the boots on the ground to encash the disillusionment that many people felt with the Trinamool.

No CM Face:

The West Bengal polls also raise a question over the BJP’s strategy of not going with a CM face in a state election when it is faced with a mercurial incumbent, like Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi or Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Sensing this after his experience of working with Kejriwal in the last Delhi elections, poll strategist Prashant Kishor made Mamata Banerjee the only face in the campaign material of TMC, putting the party in the background, which proved to be a smart move as the BJP failed to project any dominant local face that would stand in challenge to her. In the end, top BJP leaders were holding rallies while speaking in Hindi even as Banerjee made it a point to speak in Bengali at rallies.

Last 3 Phase of Election:

The West Bengal election, which started on March 27, saw aggressive campaigning by both the TMC and the BJP in the first five phases which got over on April 17. The BJP fielded Modi, Shah, party president JP Nadda, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath Yogi and several Union ministers among others.

However, the second wave of the COVID-19 hit the country in the second week of April. The BJP star campaigners including Modi and Shah either canceled their public rallies or held virtual rallies in the last three phases of voting which were held on April 22, 26, and 29.

But Mamata continued with her public rallies till the last phase of the election. She seems to have taken an edge over the BJP by holding rallies till the last phase of the election.

Covid19, a real challenge

Amid the second wave of Covid19 sweeping off lives and clogging breathe, the holding of the election was debatable and risky, but since Democracy is weighed more than life, it was witnessed. But with election political rallies and roadshows too became a part of ignoring Covid19 totally.

The Invading party in Bengal, BJP did not leave a penny to pick up the wrongs done by the ruling TMC, anyway, it is what the opposition do but amid the pandemic, our Prime Minister was seen nowhere but chanting “Jai Shree Ram” in parts of Bengal.  Slogans like, “2 May, Didi Gai”, “200 Paar”, did gain lakhs of claps but have paved the way out. Mamata Banerjee on the counting day have backlashed, The incumbent chief minister is headed towards a historic win in the state, with her party leading in 210 seats around 4.30 pm on Sunday, a win which will impact national politics in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

His taunt, “Didi.. Oo.. Didi”, went famous on social media. Slogans framed by BJP seemed so powerful in gaining lakhs of hoot and claps. Ahead of the political campaigns, the game started to change when the ruling TMC ministers started shifting to BJP blaming TMC to be the reason behind that. This was very similar to the 2019 Karnataka political crisis i.e, “Nataka In Karnataka” when many of the Congress and JDS alliance started breaking with the ministers quitting the party which led BJP to win the state with the majority.

Mr. Modi, India’s most powerful prime minister in decades. Even with cases soaring and more and more people dying across India, Mr. Modi and other politicians held enormous rallies up and down the state, which critics said helped spread the virus.

A major part of the blame for the second wave of COVID-19 was being heaped on Modi and the BJP-led central government.

The BJP failed to counter the allegations against the Modi government of having messed up in handling the COVID-19 situation which saw a record number of people getting infected and dying due to the scarcity of hospital beds and oxygen.

This proved to be bad publicity against the BJP and it played a role in the BJP’s defeat in West Bengal.

By Sunday night, with nearly all the votes counted, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was badly trailing despite its heavy investment in West Bengal, a prize it desperately wanted to win. The party won more seats in the state assembly than it took in the last election — a sign of how dominant it has become nationwide. Nevertheless, the All India Trinamool Congress party, which holds power in the state, was safely ahead.

Not falling apart the etiquette, PM Narendra Modi tweeted Congratulations to Mamata Banerjee and added, “The Centre will continue to extend all possible support to the West Bengal Government to fulfill people’s aspirations and also to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Now aware of what people actually from the leaders PM is back to manage the medical shortage in India. Mr. Modi met on Sunday with senior officials to discuss the oxygen shortage. Some media outlets reported that the Modi administration was considering drafting medical school students in their final year to help.

Critics have assailed Mr. Modi’s handling of the crisis. His government failed to heed warnings from scientists, and its own Covid-19 task force did not meet for months. To signal that India was open for business, Mr. Modi himself declared a premature victory over Covid in late January, during what proved to be a mere lull in infections.

The West Bengal election was held in stages, beginning in late March and running through last week. Many critics said it should have been called off, or that rallies, at the very least, should have been banned. But that did not happen. Mr. Modi’s party went on the attack, telling Hindu voters that if they didn’t vote for Mr. Modi’s party, their most deeply held religious beliefs might be in danger.

Ms. Banerjee, 66, who has led the state for a decade, dismissed that as nonsense. Long popular among Muslims and other minorities, she also appealed directly to Hindus, painting the B.J.P. as troublemaking outsiders.

Mr. Modi traveled to West Bengal about a dozen times for packed rallies (often failing to wear a mask, along with many people in the crowds). His face was so ubiquitous that people joked that he seemed to be running for chief minister.

Ms. Banerjee’s campaign slogan was simple and nativist: “Bengal chooses its own daughter.”

Even with this loss, Mr. Modi’s party is by far the dominant political outfit in India, and there is no other political figure who comes close to his popularity.

While the BJP said it could work on the 2019 gains to come to power in West Bengal now, it seemed clear that the state was not that easy to win. The TMC itself took 12 years to dislodge the Left government in 2011 after Banerjee lost two elections. The BJP thought it could do so in a matter of two years given the Modi factor but it was not to be.

This loss will be a big disappointment for the BJP’s top leaders and especially Amit Shah as he invested a lot of political capital to win Bengal. The present BJP under Narendra Modi is not a party to seek any moral victories in the event that it ends up with about 80 seats, up from just three in 2016 as the party knows well that it had led in 121 assembly segments just two years ago and this result is nothing short of a big setback. Mamata Banerjee, however, lost the Nandigram seat to her former close associate Suvendu Adhikari in a tight contest. The BJP may point this out, but besides these games of one-upmanship, it is now clear that the saffron party is the main opposition in West Bengal and needs to work more on the ground to wrest the state after five years. It would however be more concerned immediately over a buoyed Banerjee’s attempt to forge a united front against the BJP at the national level ahead of the 2024 elections and her resolve to fight against the PM from the Varanasi seat then. The West Bengal win opens up a new discourse at the national political level with the possibility of Banerjee being a rallying force against Modi.


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