One can always argue that the outburst at Kamduni village in Barasat is an isolated incident and a headache only for the local administration. But it’s a definite warning to chief minister Mamata Banerjee that her rural folk will not remain silent if things take a turn for the worse. Mamata understands that. Perhaps that is precisely why she agreed to visit the troubled spot even 10 days after the gruesome murder and rape of a young girl. She was, however, in for a rude shock. Her charisma to heal bereavement did not work and an angry group of women retorted when she shouted at them to stop.
Two years after she rode on the huge popular support to come to power, much of Mamata’s support base in urban areas has eroded. But, Trinamool Congress firmly believes that its base in rural Bengal remains untouched. The confidence exudes from two main factors – announcement of various development-oriented schemes and land policy of the government, which prevents land acquisition for industries.
If the claim is true, her poll managers can sleep in peace. But the claim is yet to be tested and a difficult examination – the panchayat election – is due any moment. Soon after the panchayat elections are over, the real test for Mamata will be lurking in the form of the Lok Sabha polls.
Out of the 17 panchayats, Trinamool Congress is in control of two. Unfortunately for the party, these two districts – South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore – are ridden with factionalism and leaders are engaged in bitter battles against each other. To top it, South 24-Parganas has been the focal point of the chit fund scam and anger is brewing among the victims because of the ruling party’s close proximity to the scamsters.
The party now has the mammoth task of grabbing at least 10 zilla parishads to establish its supremacy in the rural belt. In many areas, panchayat polls will be a farce with the opposition not being allowed to file nominations. But the results will definitely indicate the state of her support base in the pockets she won by huge margins in the assembly elections. The next big challenge will be her show of strength in the Lok Sabha polls in less than a year, when she gets ready for battle without the Congress as an ally, a factor which helped her win the assembly elections in 2011.
Her challenges have become manifold now. First, she has to singularly establish her party’s supremacy in Bengal politics without any allies. Second, she has to increase her tally of Lok Sabha members from the present 19 and third, play an important role in the Centre to facilitate flow of central funds to the impoverished state.
To make things work her way, she needs to keep the party together. Trinamool Congress’s organisation is in a shambles and many of her MPs are now a disgruntled lot. At least, three of them are willing to revolt against the party. If the CM can’t provide a remedy for the ailments, the party will continue to suffer.