Mamata emerges as undisputed Bengal leader
With three consecutive wins in assembly elections, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday tightening her grip over the state and also inched towards a leadership position in the non-BJP, non-Congress political space.
Trinamool’s third and the most difficult victory in Bengal assembly polls came against the full force of the mighty BJP. It had won the first leg or the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 winning 18 MP seats but in the return leg of ‘Khela Hobe’, Banerjee proved that she understands the pulse of the voters. This election, according to some Trinamool MPs, can be a launching pad for Banerjee to harbour her national ambitions.
Banerjee, however, lost her personal battle against her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikary in Nandigram but it won’t stop her to become the CM. The poll results are also a major victory for Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek. The BJP had run an all-out vilification campaign against him to attack the Trinamool.
The West Bengal election was the most anticipated polls with PM Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and all other top leaders of the BJP rallying across the length and breadth of Bengal, raising the pitch of a “sonar bangla”. They were confident of striking gold after the party won 18 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal in 2019.
Many Trinamool insiders claimed that the two years gap between the national and the assembly elections helped in “course correction” as Banerjee launched several outreach programmes, most of them crafted by Trinamool’s chief poll strategist Prashant Kishor. “When we started from that time (2019) onwards, we have been very cognizant of the problems and tried to address them both in administration and politically,” Kishor told NDTV on Sunday.
With schemes like call your Didi (Mamata) or publicly telling people to gherao houses of those who took cut money were aimed to appeal to the masses, Banerjee also side-lined a number of leaders. “Subhendu Adhikari wanted to be the deputy CM. Kishor told Mamata to reject his demand,” said a senior Trinamool MP.
And when the young Adhikary shifted to the BJP, Banerjee announced she will contest from Nandigram—the area where people’s resistance against land acquisition played a key role in Mamata’s meteoric rise to power. Her presence in South Bengal was aimed to stop loss of vital political ground to the BJP.
Her team projected the election as a battle between the entire BJP versus a lone woman. The slogan of “Bengal wants its daughter”, the disarray in the BJP’s ground level administration and the choice of wrong candidates by the BJP boosted Banerjee’s prospects.
But Banerjee too faced a high anti-incumbency, especially the allegations of rampant corruption and high handedness. Trinamool made wholesale changes in its candidate list, brought a large number of cine-stars to cash on their popular appeal and try to turn the elections into a battle between Bengalis and outsiders. Banerjee also managed to consolidate the entire Muslim vote in her favour.
Now, all eyes would be on the run up to the 2024 elections. With a weakened Congress, Banerjee’s party are likely to try to project her as a pivotal force. She has been maintaining a cordial tie with leaders such as Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, NC leader Omar Abdullah and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray. In the next three years, she might want to dominate the non-BJP Opposition place and play the role of an anchor, if she gets an opportunity.