Mamata Banerjee has successfully steered TMC to victory in West Bengal assembly elections. Though she lost her seat in Nandigram, the opposition are now looking at Mamata to lead them in the fight against Modi. The Congress is on its way to decimation and in that situation, it is Mamata whom the Opposition could think of leading the fight. It is another story that for her, the challenge now is on her home turf where she will have to face BJP as an opposition.
As the results in the five states have been declared, the outcome in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry has been as per the expectations. But all eyes were in West Bengal where the leads showed TMC retaining power by winning over 200 seats. However, Mamata Banerjee has lost her elections from Nandigram, the same area from where she had started her movement ten years back and came into power after dislodging the left front in the state for the first time.
Victory is like an opium; it fills some with tremendous energy. This was visible in Mamata. In Nandigram, she had injured her foot when it got stuck in the door of her own car but put the blame on the BJP for it and addressed rallies with a plastered foot. She managed to get the sympathy of the people. But soon after the victory, she got rid of the plaster and the wheelchair.
The election fight in West Bengal had taken the shape of the fight between Mamata versus Modi. But the moment it was clear that Mamata is going to win this election, the opposition who swore by secularism and socialism, saw an opportunity in Mamata to lead the forthcoming battles against Modi. However, after they got the news that Mamata has lost her own elections in Nandigram, it dampened their enthusiasm to a great extent.
Now the question remains, how is the win significant. If you see it from the BJP point of view, it has been able to save her government in Assam while the opposition thought that the personal fight between Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma may hand over some gain to the Congress coalition. But this did not happen. In Assam, BJP demolished the coalition of the Congress and Badruddin Ajmal and retained power in the state. Not only this, in Puducherry also, the party has been able to open its account and it will be forming the government there for the first time. Before this, this UT had a Congress government but now BJP has successfully wrested the power from it.
In Kerala BJP knows that its preparation is not enough to make them victorious. But the BJP managed to dent the vote bank of the UDF which was led by the Congress. This led to UDF not coming into power. This is the first time in the last 40 years that UDF has not returned to power after a five-year term of LDF. LDF has managed to win the elections to retain the power. Rahul’s push up and jumping into the sea could not get him enough votes. Compared to Uttar Pradesh, he was surer of the intelligent voters of Kerala to win the elections there to return to power after the five-year term of the LDF. But the people of Kerala did not express their faith in UDF. It is to be noted that in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Rahul Gandhi had chosen a reserved seat in Wayanad to get elected to the parliament. But this time the people of Kerala have put their faith in LDF.
In Tamil Nadu, the election results have been as per expectations. After the death of Jayalalitha, AIADMK did not have a leader like her. And the politics in Tamil Nadu has been oscillating between AIADMK and DMK and the people have put their faith in DMK this time.
But the real drama happened in West Bengal where every party was saying “Khela Hobe”. BJP had unleashed all its horses there just like it does in every election, be it assembly elections, local elections or parliamentary elections. Every party claimed itself victorious and BJP did the same but its top leadership knew that it was not easy. First, the party didn’t have a proper structure in the state and it does not have people everywhere on the ground.
Second, Muslim votes are in plenty in the state and they played key role in hundreds of seats. So, the importance of the Muslim votes could not be discounted. They go with any party capable of defeating BJP, which precisely happened in West Bengal. The Muslim voters who were earlier with the left front, are now with Mamata and this time even those who were hitherto keeping distance with her, they too joined the Mamata bandwagon. Same was the case with those Muslim voters who voted for the Congress traditionally. The Congress and the Left front were okay, but they did not waste their votes on that Furfura Sharif also who was projected as having influence over large part of the Muslim voters of West Bengal. The Muslim voters rallied around Mamata with full vigour as they sensed that this is the party which can stop the juggernaut of the BJP from coming into the power. Muslim voters are known for voting tactfully.
Mamata had announced many enticing schemes for them when she was still in power. Apart from that, her wheelchair-image gave them the impression that BJP is trying to decimate her. And then the Bengali mindset chipped in about who is insider and who is outsider. They found Mamata as their own. Bengal is still struggling to come out of this mental block which gives enough indication that Bengal which has been a guiding light of progress in the country, why it has been left behind.
Despite this, a large section of the people in the state realised that BJP is trying to do good to the state. This hope was in the poor and the Dalits in the villages and also in those sections who have been left behind in the race of progress and who have to go out of the state to earn their livelihood. Had they not hoped this and they did not have faith in PM Narendra Modi, the biggest campaigner of the BJP, the party could not have increased its tally from three in the last Assembly elections to around 25 times.
As far as Mamata Banerjee is concerned, there will be challenges galore for her in Bengal. Now she will face a tough opposition in the assembly in the form of BJP and not the drained and defeated Left Front or the Congress. To increase their morale and to help them, the whole battery of the Central government and the organisational structure of the BJP will be there for BJP to prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha election from the day one, as per its normal strategy. And then it will also work on the plan for a final assault in 2026.
There have been many cases of corruption against the leaders of Mamata’s TMC and the investigations of these will bring more trouble for Didi. Apart from this, Mamata will have to placate to the Muslim voters who have voted en mass for her. They will try to extract their pound of flesh. Mamata has been seen in the recent past doing Chandi path and other things to placate Hindu voters and to top it all, she will have a leaking sore in the form of Nandigram which has shown her the door by opting for Suvendu Adhikari, her old colleague who is now the big face of BJP in the state.
But the big question is, what will happen to the Congress now. If we look at what Congress has been thinking, it feels content with the win of Mamata but it doesn’t figure out that in between the fight between Mamata and the BJP, the party has been consigned to the margin in a state where it was in power for decades since the Independence. Congress has no tradition of fixing the responsibility for a debacle in the election. If the party gets defeated then the blame is shared by all and if it wins then the credit goes to the Gandhi family. As per this tradition, the same will happen this time also and after some time the preparation for crowning Rahul Gandhi as the President of the Party will start.
And lastly, one might ask if this win of TMC will make the duel in 2024 as Mamata versus Modi or not. The parties facing BJP, now look at Mamata as their saviour. At one point of time, it was Chandrababu Naidu, then Nitish Kumar and at some point of time it was Rahul Gandhi – the joint Opposition has been in search of a leader for quite some time now. Now they are looking at Mamata to lead them. Even Congress may say yes to this as it has no energy left to lead the pack and it will be happy to be behind anyone who wants to lead.
As far as the BJP is concerned, it will like this. If Mamata, who is famous to placate Muslims and for believing in violent politics which was evident in driving out Nano from Singur, then the BJP will find it easy to fight under the leadership of Modi with the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas (take all along, development for all). As of now, one may hope for peace in Bengal where TMC is back on its violent streak. The real war should be against Corona and it should take precedence and it is time to celebrate ‘secularism’ for the parties who are opposed to Modi in Bengal.