PM Modi Better Watch Out, Didi Has Just Begun Her March to Delhi
File photos of Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi.
Remember the Chief Minister who sat on a dharna against the police force she herself commanded, in her own constituency? Yes it was Mamata Banerjee. That was in 2011 when she had just become the CM, but hadn't moved on from the 'opposition in chief' mode.
Her street-fights against the “ruthless” Marxists and the hunger strikes for “maati and maanush” have been the stuff of legends. During the landmark Singur agitation – which eventually put her on the path to power – she fasted for 25 days in a go. And she ended it only after the intervention of the then President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In Parliament, she once threw a black shawl at the speaker to express her protest.
Things changed a little after she became the CM in Bengal. She banned bandhs, which for long was considered Bengal’s biggest bane – and the prime arsenal of her arch-rival CPM. And being in power she couldn't sit on Dharna either.
But it seems the Vintage Didi is back again.
A strong Central government making controversial steps, a divided opposition and an uninspiring leadership of the principal Opposition party means, Didi can up her game. She knows if there ever was a chance for her to become the face of Opposition, it is now. Congress is at its weakest, she is secure after her second victory, Nitish Kumar is unable to make up his mind if he is with Modi or against Modi, Samajwadi Party fighting a real tough battle in UP, AIADMK is drifting given its leader’s health, and none of the other parties have the numbers.
Thus after a gap of almost 6 long years Didi is back in national reckoning, at least optically. Ever since the demonetisation drive of Narendra Modi, Mamata has been everywhere: On the streets, on television screens and in the newsprint.
Mamata’s gambit is on the federal structure, which she accuses Modi of tearing apart. And now she has dragged the Army into it after the forces carried out inspections at a toll gate near her blue-and-white government headquarters, Nabanna. So what if the Army is at pains to clarify it was a routine check, that they had kept the state governments concerned in loop.
Didi has run away with the ball, and her MPs have stalled Parliament on this. The other luminaries in Opposition – from Congress to BSP – dismayed by the gumption of the Lady from Bhabanipur is being now forced to play catch up.
Seasoned Mamata watchers know – and BJP strategists better take note – she knows how to play with the optics. Non-issues can make banner headlines, an emergency landing can be termed as a conspiracy to kill, an Army exercise can be interpreted as a state-level coup. It will all lead to a narrative of dear Didi, being victimised, for taking on the Centre. And mind, you she has just begun.
For the rest of the tenure Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have to contend with Mamata as the main Opposition. And for the rest of Opposition, she may end up being the tormentor-in-chief.