Mamata hopes to bring back focus on personal appeal, honesty instead of her corrupted generals

Last couple of overs of the final match. To borrow from the irrepressible Ravi Shastri, "the atmosphere is electric". The opposition bowlers have suddenly upped their game, trying to deliver a yorker every ball. The asking rate is rising. Every ball now needs to be hit for a boundary, almost. The pressure is immense, with even svelte senoritas chewing off their carefully manicured nails. But fans believe as long as she is at the crease — swashbuckling, unpredictable, fearless, she takes guard as the bowler runs in. Surely, the white ball will fly over the boundary into the night for a 'DLF Maximum?'

The bowler bowls, it's a full toss, asking to be hit, the star batsman goes on back foot and with dead hands, plays the ball softly as it nestles near her feet. Silence. Even the bowler is taken aback.

"Everything is my fault," Mamata Banerjee said during a rally in Kulti area of Asansol on Wednesday.

"All faults and mistakes are mine. If you have misgivings then be upset with me, even angry. Criticise me, chastise me but for god’s sake do not deprive the Trinamool Congress of your ashirwaad, shubhechha and dua (blessings). Otherwise it will become very difficult for me to move ahead," said the Chief Minister.

How may one interpret this total surrender? For a firebrand leader who until yesterday was batting on front foot, smashing every allegation of corruption as "political conspiracy", brazening out every sting operation (and there have many lately) video as "doctored" by the "dirty tricks department" of rival parties, Mamata Banerjee's unexpected exercise of bhakti yoga and total submission before the electorate could be a reflection of the enormous, late pressure her party is under and simultaneously a clever attempt at making the 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls all about her, not her party.

A file photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

A file photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

As a breakaway faction of the Indian National Congress, TMC never had an ideological base. Mamata Banerjee's politics is a mixture of personal charisma, street smartness and mass appeal, built on the planks of populism and leftist dogma which even certified communists are now shying away from. She was at the right place at the right time when people in 'Waste Bengal' finally divorced the Left after a troubled 34-year-old marriage.

The angsty first few years when TMC enjoyed being at the right end of popular backlash against three decades of Leftist rule that left West Bengal laggards in every parameter, is over. And in absence of an ideological glue, the TMC has finally been shown for what it is — a party of opportunists and a conglomerate of the corrupt.

In its collapse, the Vivekananda Road flyover killed 28 people, maimed many others and smashed the lid off an open secret — the party and its relationship with the ubiquitous 'Syndicate'. That these cartels that force contractors to buy inferior building materials at high prices enjoy the blessings of ruling party leaders is now no longer part of an off-record conversation.

Caught red-handed during sting videos, netas often cry political vengeance. But so entrenched is the TMC with these "Robin Hoods" who supply cash and men during elections and keep the pockets of their godfathers well-lined, its leaders are not even taking recourse to the fig leaf of victimhood.

If honesty is a virtue, Bidhannagar mayor Sabyasachi Dutta should be applauded.

Caught admitting in the Times Now sting video that his relationship with the 'syndicate' operators is one of quid pro quo, Dutta, who's contesting from Rajarhat assembly constituency, later unabashedly defended his stand on camera.

He even promised to send mishti (sweets) to the editor of the channel after he wins "for increasing his popularity" just before the polls.

"Is there any wrong if unemployed youths honestly try to become self-employed and do their business? There are around 20,000 youths in my assembly constituency who are involved in this business. They are my voters. I love them and they love me," Dutta said.

True, is anything wrong in expression of love? The mutual expression of mush could even have been captured on celluloid had it not been for those unsuspecting souls who lost their lives and limbs when "development" fell on their shoulders.

As in cricket matches, if there is a turning point in elections, the collapse of the flyover in Kolkata could very well be that inflection point.


It has added heft to the charges of corruption that erupted with a string of sting videos where many members of the ruling party were shown to be accepting bribes; it has given the fledgling opposition a handy tool right before the elections and perhaps most importantly, it has made "corruption" the main issue in Bengal Assembly polls.

Written off after the last year civic polls, the Left has since taken the Marxist albatross off its chest and bit the Congress bullet. The alliance which looked unlikely at past given the baggage of history has since become a reality, the grassroots workers have become energised and the opposition suddenly seems to have got wind in its sails.

Ever the street smart mass leader, Mamata Banerjee understands the shift in mood among voters still better than anyone else. She understands that the tailwind TMC enjoyed even six months before the polls is no longer behind her.

With the Election Commission conducting a five-phase poll in the state — which allows enough time for movement of central forces — there are less chances of a rerun of what happened during last year's civic polls when there were many incidents of violence and widespread allegations of false voting, rigging and booth capturing.

It is in this context that we must place Mamata Banerjee's attempts at moksha through saranagati before voters.

The about turn from 31 May speech — "Election will be over after a month. We will remain here after that. We will not spare any of them (Opposition parties). We had shown enough manners after we won the last Assembly elections. Not anymore…" — should be seen in this light.

The Chief Minister reckons that if she can make this a US Presidential style of elections by bringing the focus back to her instead of her corrupted generals, her personal appeal, perceived incorruptibility may yet carry the day through.

Updated Date: Apr 08, 2016 09:48 AM

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