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‘We don’t care who supports us, we will carry on the struggle’ — brave words from stormy petrel Mamata Banerjee when faced with a straggly crowd at Ramlila Maidan on Wednesday.
This was meant to be her launch pad into national politics, where she would have stood shoulder to shoulder with social activist Anna Hazare, who had once said she should be prime minister. But where the script veered off course was when Mr Hazare did not turn up for the rally, claiming that he was not well. For an astute politician, Ms Banerjee seems to have got it all wrong this time.
Mr Hazare had some cache at one time when he launched his anti-corruption movement. But as time went by, he began to lose his grip over the crowds and his protégé Arvind Kejriwal picked up the issue and ran with it, very successfully. His earthy wisdom may work in the confines of Ralegan Siddhi, but Anna hardly has any claim to a national vision. In fact, some of his methods in his village border on the bizarre like flogging alcoholics to give up the bottle. Hardly the stuff of democracy, we would think.
Why then did Mamata think that an alliance with Mr Hazare would give her any greater public goodwill in Delhi? And why would a person who has time and again said that she has no prime ministerial ambitions want to hold a rally in Delhi where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is not exactly up in the marquee lights? It is quite possible that she was signalling to the big two that no coalition can be formed without her contribution. This is valid given that opinion polls suggest that after the Congress and the BJP, the TMC will have the largest chunk of seats.
But by addressing a flop rally, she has diminished her own importance and undermined her claims that she is not after power. She has plans to offer a critique of the UPA government’s performance. But then equally, she could be taken to task for her poor governance of West Bengal. Infant deaths and crimes against women have risen drastically. She appears to tacitly condone the unruly and criminal behaviour of her cadre. The economy of the state is in dire straits and blaming the Centre for all her woes is simply not good enough.
She has to come up with a viable plan to attract investment and institute more social welfare schemes. These would add weight to her ambitions of a national role. She now plans to hold rallies in other states. Let us hope that she gets someone more credible and reliable to share the stage with her in those places.