There are elections and then there are elections. But when it comes to colour and drama, there is none like the big, loud Indian elections. One of the key figures in this democracy yatra is, of course, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee and when it comes to generating controversy out of thin air, there is no one to match the stormy petrel of Bengal politics. Even the Election Commission’s strict model code of conduct has failed to rein her in. After taking on the poll panel on the issue of the transfer of central government officials in eight districts ahead of the polls in the state, Ms Banerjee has now accused the Congress, the BJP and the Left of plotting to kill her. She revealed this plan after a minor fire, which took place most probably due to a short circuit, broke out in her hotel room in Malda. “I would have died had I locked the door. I was on saline and oxygen through the night,” she said after the incident.
While it is true that the ultimate test of an elected leader is an election and probably, as reports indicate, the TMC will do well in the general elections, Ms Banerjee’s methods of staying ahead is the race are dangerous because they can foment tensions, leading to violence. Her modus operandi is simple and high on emotion: Attack the enemy (real or imagined) not with facts and figures but with accusations that are never backed up by any investigation. So a couple of weeks ago, we saw her training her guns on the EC. Now she is targeting opposition parties. In the first instance, good sense prevailed and she climbed down from her position within 24 hours. Don’t expect this to happen this time.
Ms Banerjee claims that she is the last one standing against all the vices that dog Indian politicians — nepotism, cronyism and lust for power — and so she has many enemies. While it is for the people to decide whether they believe all this or not, it is high time the Bengal CM shed her ‘street-corner’ politician image and start behaving like a mature national leader.