If you thought grassroots was grassroots and virtual was virtual and never the twain shall meet, think again.
In the wake of the presidential hoopla Mamata Banerjee has surfaced on Facebook. The irony is rich. Facebook is the very platform where that offending “Dushtu lok vanish” cartoon went viral not so long ago.
Now Didi has waded into the belly of the beast itself armed with quotes from Gandhi and Tagore on her wall, sadly, the most clichéd ones – “be the change you want to see in the world” and “where the mind is without fear.”
It’s all part of the “ I am a simple man” strategy – talk directly to the people, strike a blow against the secret cabals and midnight meetings where politicians-turned-wrestlers do U-turns.
“I appeal to all Indian citizens and of course, the young generation of India, to raise their voices and be counted to fight against corruption, back-room deal making, Machiavellian manipulations and machinations,” Mamata exhorted her Facebook followers with alliterative flourish.
When Anna Hazare had sought behen Mamata’s support for the Lokpal Bill, Didi had ducked it . “He is a great man, a great personality. How can I comment about him? I am busy with Bengal,” she had said at that time. But she’d also indicated she wasn’t rushing to embrace the Anna cause either. “There is a vigilance department to look into such issues. One must abide by the Constitution.”
Two weeks after Anna’s plea, a Team Anna member pointed the finger at Trinamool for using the federalism argument to scotch the Lokpal bill. “It is the Trinamool’s opposition that prevented the government from tabling the Bill in the Rajya Sabha today,” Shanti Bhushan told a gathering at the Ramlila Madian.
But now Team Anna is training its corruption guns on Pranab Mukherjee. And smarting from the Kalam affair, Mamata is sounding like a born-again Anna-ite appealing to that very class of people she disdained – the armchair activists of the Facebook ilk, the ones that light candles and call it a day’s work for a good cause.
Team Anna used social media deftly at the height of their campaign making it a forum where they could go directly to the people bypassing the people’s elected representatives who were dismissed as corrupt, compromised and untrustworthy. Facebook became a sort of aam aadmi’s court albeit aam aadmis with email accounts. It is a little surreal then to see an immensely successful and seasoned politician like Mamata Banerjee using Facebook to do what politics could not, thanking her brothers and sisters for their “spontaneous and positive response for the great cause of our nation.”
And there is plenty of that on her wall, drowning out a few sputters of criticism.
dear didi..........i cant believe that here am writing 2 u in FB!!!u r our beloved chief minister....and our loving didi........plz do continue ur majic.......
Madam you are the present and future of West Bengal as well as India.
after my dead...I sure, I'll go to haven ...bcoz today I stay with my DIDI (The ICON of HONESTY)..
Her Facebook venture might be part of her new transparency crusade but the gushing adulation can just reinforce the Mamata-bubble around her - a world where there is no dislike button. 23,944 people like the MamataBanerjeeOfficial page at last count.
The cause is now larger than APJ Kalam for Mamata. After being stabbed in the back by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata has discovered the need to “cleanse Indian politics.”
In these trying and difficult times, public trust in the political class and institutions is under serious stress. There is a lack of faith of the common people in political entities who partake in rampant corruption and underhand dealings.
If Team Anna wants Mamata on board this would be a good time to go for it. However Team Anna will do that at its own peril. Mamata is a smart operator. She can take their rhetoric and make it her own like no one else can.
Ask the Communists. They are still trying to figure out how Didi out-lefted the Left by hijacking their own rhetoric and then drumming them out of power. As the UPA is finding out, Mamata as an enemy is formidable. As an ally, she can be even more dangerous.