FOR all her belligerence, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Ms. Mamata Banerjee Didi is paying a heavy price. Not only did she lose much of her turf to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent Lok Sabha elections but also lost a lot of her goodwill with the people in general and her own cadres in particular.
This has become visible as TMC’s own workers and elected representatives are forming a bee-line to the BJP. Three legislators and 60 councillors have already entered the BJP and more are likely to follow. Obviously, Didi is facing an unprecedented slide in her appeal and popularity, and the process may continue, daring the woman who has come to be known more for her brazenness than for her bravery in recent years. Even though Ms. Banerjee is also known to have brought about the end of Left dominance in West Bengal, she is also known to have opposed Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi rather senselessly. Nursing the ambition to be Prime Minister someday, she felt it politically wise to stand on the other side of the line and oppose everything that Mr. Modi did or said. That strategy did not pay and the outcome was the shrinking of Didi’s turf in the Lok Sabha elections.
Never had she faced such a humiliation in her political career. Even as she now tries to save her citadel from a total collapse, Ms. Banerjee is taking steps that may stave off some embarrassment all right, but that may not suffice to push back the BJP. Reports have us believe that the BJP will keep gaining more ground in West Bengal and the TMC will have to keep yielding more space to it. The person who is responsible for this slide is none other than Ms. Mamata Banerjee herself. For, she resorted all kinds of wrong actions with a view to stemming the BJP’s rising tide in the Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, Ms. Banerjee had sensed the trouble and therefore resolved to stop the BJP in its tracks this time. However, her methods were raw and only pulled her down rather than keep her safe in her citadel.
The violence, the vandalism, the filthy political talk, the threats, the thoughtless stance against the Centre even on constitutional issues -- all these went against Ms. Banerjee who now sees her clout melting away. There is little doubt that Ms. Banerjee’s simplicity of living-style, her rustic approach and her connect with common people endeared her to all all these years. But alongside that successful public connect also grew certain brazenness that started earning for her a lot of popular hostility, which she did not notice, blind as she had become to her own faults.
All that reflected in the voting pattern in the Lok Sabha elections. The deep inroads the BJP has made into West Bengal cannot now be erased by the TMC, no matter what it does. But the biggest failure of Ms. Banerjee was in the philosophical or ideological zone. Scholars or political thought never lent her much credit for having some credible political philosophy.
That flaw came to fore in a pronounced manner when Ms. Banerjee started opposing Mr. Narendra Modi as if he was her personal rival. Her personalised thinking, her self-centered approach to politics, therefore, could stand no match to the BJP’s well-modulated, properly-meditated ideological base evolved over decades of patient and persistent thinking. However, when everything around her was turning against her, Ms. Banerjee could not sense the rot. That was her actual undoing which, of course, took some time to start showing effect. Now, Ms. Mamata Banerjee stares at a debacle of an unprecedented nature in the next some time, whose early signs are available in the exodus of her people from her party to the BJP camp. This reality Didi may find hard to digest.