Overlaying all the bases

As the first two phases of the West Bengal assembly poll, masking 60 seats in West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Bankura, Jhargram, Purulia and South 24 Parganas, obtained over on April 1, the BJP claimed victory in a minimum of 50 seats. Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee cautiously kept away from making any prediction, or even affecting optimism past the victory signal she flashed whereas campaigning in Nandigram, where she is pitted towards Suvendu Adhikari, who defected to the BJP in the run-as much as the election.

Nevertheless, for the subsequent 4 rounds of polling, masking 163 seats, predominantly in South Bengal, the TMC gained 122 seats from here in 2016, Mamata has struck a belligerent observe towards the BJP. No pleas for votes or apologies for ‘mistakes’ committed by TMC leaders; quite the opposite, she is asking ladies to arm themselves with kitchen knives towards “rogue BJP staff” and reminding individuals in the Muslim-dominated pockets of South 24 Parganas about riots beneath BJP rule.

In 60-odd seats within the TMC stronghold of South Bengal and North Bengal’s Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur districts, the place Muslims account for no less than a 3rd of the citizens, Mamata can also be raking up the NRC (Nationwide Register of Residents) and CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) to construct opinion towards the BJP. “If you don’t want to be pushed out by means of an NRC train, higher be careful,” she says at a rally.

Mamata’s grip on Bengal’s 30 per cent Muslim population is probably not as robust because it was in 2016, owing to the presence on this electoral race of influential Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui. Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF) is part of the Left-Congress Third Front. He also has the backing of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen) and has fielded candidates in 26 of Bengal’s 294 seats, principally in South Bengal. Mamata is more than conscious of the menace. “A good friend of the BJP from Hyderabad and a ruffian from Furfura Sharif are spending crores of rupees to attempt to cut up the minority vote. Voting for them means voting for the BJP,” she warns at a rally in South 24 Parganas, the place four ISF candidates are in the fray.

Enjoying it cool

There’s a acutely aware attempt, though, to not fall prey to provocations and do anything that buttresses the BJP line that she is ‘anti-Hindu’. Twice in Nandigram, throughout a roadshow in Reyapara and the April 1 polling booth visit in Boyal over alleged electoral malpractices, Mamata ran into saffron-clad ‘Jai Shree Ram’ sloganeers but she stored her cool. Comparable incidents up to now had seen Didi lose her composure, as she did in Kolkata on January 23, refusing to ship her speech at Netaji’s one hundred and twenty fifth start anniversary celebrations, and the Might 2019 incident in North 24 Parganas, when she confronted the lads shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans as her convoy was passing via.

But those have been totally different occasions. Heeding the recommendation of senior TMC leaders, Mamata has been deftly avoiding enjoying into the BJP’s arms. ‘Thanda thanda cool cool, abar jitbe Trinamool (Hold your cool, Trinamool Congress will win once more)’ is her social gathering’s new mantra. “We have been capable of make Didi perceive not to get visibly irritated by such sloganeering. Even Trinamool staff have been cautioned towards overreacting to provocations,” says former TMC minister Purnendu Bose, who camped in Nandigram for three weeks along with social gathering leaders Subrata Bakshi and Dola Sen to supervise Mamata’s campaign. Bose provides that even assaults on social gathering staff are being handled with restraint. “Didi has asked our staff and leaders to beware of traps the BJP may lay and use to its advantage.”


Going beyond large rallies, Mamata is making an attempt to provide a personal touch to her campaign. It’s ‘Duare duare Mamata (Mamata at each doorstep)’ together with her core staff lining up localised election conferences and home-to-house visits. “TMC youth leaders have fanned out to satisfy individuals and tackle their misgivings. Senior leaders are holding meetings in localities. For Mamatadi, we chalked out eight small conferences in Nandigram as an alternative of massive rallies to make sure a greater connect with the voters,” says Bose.

Mamata even cancelled her 5 km roadshow, planned on March 29-30, in Nandigram, preferring to go residence to residence by way of village lanes, on her wheelchair, and join with the voters. “She coated a lot of the Hindu localities to be able to shed the tag of Muslim appeasement foisted on her by Suvendu Adhikari, who had referred to as her ‘Mamata Begum’,” says Biswabandhu Jana, a resident of Bhangabera in Nandigram.

In the course of the go to to the Boyal poll booth, Mamata left it to the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Pressure) personnel to handle the charged environment as chest-thumping ‘Jai Shree Ram’ sloganeers came nose to nose with TMC staff shouting ‘Khela Hobe (The game is on)’. The temperamental Mamata waited patiently for about two hours, letting securitymen and the Election Fee group to revive order. “I’m not apprehensive about Nandigram, I am fearful about democracy,” stated Mamata, making an attempt to settle down supporters by assuring them that legal recourse was being contemplated. The EC, for the report, has dismissed her claims of booth capturing at Boyal.


The TMC has a number of massive weapons, however Mamata remains its solely star campaigner. While she aims to marketing campaign in one hundred seats, nephew Abhishek Banerjee is concentrating on 60, half of them in South 24 Parganas. Apart from, a gaggle of 20-25 TMC leaders are crisscrossing districts and holding rallies, social gathering meetings and coordinating with local groups and activists against the BJP and its policies at the Centre. “In Nandigram, we acquired Medha Patkar and Yogendra Yadav to teach farmers concerning the draconian new farm bills and the Narendra Modi government’s indifference to farmers’ woes. Even in style artistes, such Kabir Suman and Nachiketa, who had expressed solidarity with the Nandigram agitation in 2007, have been introduced in,” says Purnendu Bose.

Bose can also be mobilising anti-BJP boards reminiscent of ‘No vote to BJP’ and ‘Bangla Bachao, Songbidhan Bachao (Save Bengal, Save the Structure)’. Likewise, Dola Sen, who has a robust base among commerce unions, has been visiting the jute mill areas in Hooghly and the tea gardens of North Bengal. Bose himself has worked extensively within the tribal region and areas inhabited by the Rajbongshi and Mechh ethnic teams. One among his aims is to stop an en bloc switch of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) votes to the BJP, in a repeat of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

But with the BJP deploying over 50 national leaders in Bengal and the Modi-Amit Shah duo flying in and out, it has develop into all of the more pertinent for Mamata to remain seen in as many seats as potential. (See accompanying report Why West Bengal issues to the BJP)

The TMC chief is operating a gruelling campaign by means of the length and breadth of the state and addressing a mean of three rallies a day. Sun-tanned, visibly drained and on a wheelchair, Mamata presents a putting contrast to the BJP’s carnival-like rallies and roadshows marked by the heavy presence of Union ministers and celebrities. “Mamata Banerjee is oscillating between two image constructs. One, of an injured lady on a wheelchair, continually being wronged and on the lookout for the help of Ma-Bonn (moms and sisters), and the opposite of a tigress, wounded however however powerful and vengeful,” says political analyst Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, former professor of political science at Calcutta College. “She switches between the two relying on the place she is campaigning.”

One cause why Mamata’s presence alongside her candidates has turn into essential is the necessity to handle discontent in the get together at the local degree. In contrast to the previous, she isn’t looking for a decisive mandate in her identify alone. “I’m profitable, but this election is just not about me. It’s essential to make the TMC win in over 200 seats; else, the BJP will use money power to buy traitors,” she claimed in Falakata in Alipurduar district.

There have been disagreements over candidate choice, however Didi’s phrase has been last. The method began over a yr ago with ballot strategist Prashant Kishor’s workforce assessing the efficiency and recognition of sitting TMC MLAs earlier than suggesting three probables for every seat. The sitting MLAs have been reportedly categorised beneath four broad categories: those who had performed and in addition had a clean document; performers but seen as corrupt; non-performers who in any other case had a clean report; and non-performers with a dubious previous. “We selected candidates primarily on the idea of performance and popularity, giving less weightage to the criterion of a clean report,” says a member of Kishor’s workforce. Makes an attempt have been also made to woo some Left and Congress politicians with a clear picture, but without much success.

Kishor had steered that one hundred twenty of the TMC’s 211 sitting MLAs be dropped. However Mamata was towards such heavy pruning. Finally, 80 sitting MLAs have been denied tickets. Mamata and Abhishek tried to placate those denied tickets by making private calls, but many complain about not getting a hearing. “Had Didi referred to as me up and explained why she was unable to subject me, I might have thought twice before joining the BJP. No telephone call got here from Abhishek either,” says Sonali Guha, a Mamata loyalist for three many years who defected after being denied a ticket from her Satgachia seat in South 24 Parganas.


Mamata’s trump card might nicely be the Rs 12,000 crore a yr social welfare advantages her government has been extending despite the state’s precarious monetary well being. The subsidised rations, stipends for larger schooling of women, previous age pension for SCs/STs, well being cover value Rs 5 lakh for all and crop cover for farmers have benefitted about seventy five per cent of Bengal’s one hundred million population in a method or another. The TMC also claims that each household in Bengal has seen an revenue improve of Rs 12,000-Rs 20,000 a yr.

Mamata should fervently hope that each one it will hold up towards the BJP’s promise of ‘ashol poribortan (actual change)’, so-referred to as ‘double-engine’ progress and clean governance. However Didi can also be holding the door ajar for publish-poll alignments, should the need come up. In a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and 10 key opposition leaders in end-March, she has referred to as for uniting towards the BJP to stop a “one-social gathering authoritarian rule” within the nation. Is it political foresight or the first signs of panic? We’ll find out on counting day, Might 2.

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