Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s ambitious plans of spreading her party’s wings far and wide across the country have been somewhat deflated after social activist Anna Hazare backed out her thinly attended rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground on Wednesday.
Trinamool Congress Party chief Mamata Banerjee with Saugata Roy during an election rally at Ramlila Maidan, in New Delhi (Ajay Aggarwal/HT)
Asked if she was still hopeful of joint programmes with Hazare, Banerjee told HT, “Look, I have a lot of engagements in Bengal because that is the most important state. Then I have to go to Assam, Manipur and other Northeastern states. I will have to see if I can really manage time to go elsewhere.”
But she was quick to add, “It will also depend on his ability to find time for campaigning.”
Banerjee, no doubt, suffered a political embarrassment as the Ralegan Siddhi resident backed off from the joint rally. Hazare’s endorsement may not mean much in terms of votes: He doesn’t have a dedicated vote bank.
Maharashtra Congress leaders point out that Hazare didn’t even succeed in getting his candidate elected in his village panchayat polls. Moreover, in Banerjee’s core constituency of West Bengal, where she hopes to win the lion’s share of her total tally, the Trinamool doesn’t need any electoral help at present.
But Hazare, a well-known anti-corruption fighter could have added value to the Trinamool’s image at the national level when the anti-graft plank has assumed significance. Besides, Hazare’s presence at political rallies would have shown that Banerjee is not alone.
For Hazare, the Wednesday’s episode should be a wake-up call that his mass appeal which sent crowds into unprecedented frenzy two years ago, has waned. For Banerjee, it is time to go back to the drawing board to chalk out her national plans for the 2014 lok Sabha elections.
“He is an old man. We have respect for him,” said the Trinamool chief, summing up her thoughts on Hazare’s alleged betrayal but quickly moved to announce her candidates for Delhi without waiting for his approval. Earlier, Banerjee had left it to Hazare to pick Trinamool’s candidates in northern states and Maharashtra.
But the joint venture is almost over now unless Hazare’s team reaches out to Banerjee. As her plan to ride piggy-back on Team Anna has flopped, she will have to wait longer to expand her party’s base in northern states.