Mamata Banerjee is in full throttle. She has taken her battle to New Delhi and looks set for the long haul. What is it that keeps her so full of energy and aggression? It has to be something more than FDI in retail. She, after all, has the option not to allow foreign investment in the sector in her state. She has withdrawn support from the UPA and should be focussing on governance in her state now. Why is she intent on keeping the momentum going?
Clearly, her eyes are set on power in New Delhi. It is apparent the mercurial Didi is serious about a federal front and wants to formalise a loose alliance of regional powers before the general elections which she anticipates could happen much before 2014 – at her rally today she said the general elections could be advanced and held in March next year. She is counting on the participation of Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh Yadav among others in the front.
More than that she is in a hurry to expand the footprint of her party beyond Poschim Bongo. Today’s rally had a mix of party supporters from different states. She also announced rallies by her party against the Centre across the country. She would have rallies in Patna and Lucknow before she stages a dharna on November 19 and 20 at Jantar Mantar on the issue of FDI in retail.
Mamata is turning out to be a smart operator. She has already captured the space traditionally occupied by the Left parties by successfully hijacking their agenda, both in her state and outside it too. A recent survey by CNN-IBN reveals that most respondents in cities believe she is pro-people and pro-poor. In terms of visibility she has outdone the Left leaders by a mile and she is on her way to elbowing out others in that critical space.
Right now she has stolen the march over other parties as far as the protest over FDI is concerned. She could be trying to be the rallying point of the non-Congress, non-BJP alliance front whenever it comes up, before the elections or after it. That’s the reason she is concentrating on Delhi and targeting the UPA government so much despite being under attack from rivals in her state over governance issues.
She appears more mature in her approach to politics now. Despite her bitter experience with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh during the presidential elections she is open to doing business with him. At the rally today, she said she would invite Mulayam and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav to her rally in Lucknow on November 17. The Mamata of the old would have reacted angrily to the volte face by the SP chief.
While trying to build bridges with Mulayam, she could be trying to break the possible tie-up between him and the Left. During a recent rally in the national capital a few weeks ago it was evident that both were trying to come together to form a third front. The Left had even hinted that it was open to allowing Mulayam to take the leadership role in bringing different parties together under the third front. Mamata surely is making her moves with great calculation. She plans to isolate the Left and keep it out of the reckoning while creating large space for her party in any future political combination aiming at power at the centre.
Her next move will be keenly watched. Mamata has certainly managed to attract the attention to herself and elevated herself from a regional leader to a national leader in the space of a month. Whether she manages to turn herself into a major political player at the Centre would depend a lot on how she takes her game plan forward.