Friday, 7 October, 2022
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In West Bengal, an injured Mamata Banerjee is more lethal for BJP. Over to Modi

West Bengal will for the first time see a chief minister and a fiery leader, who never bows down, hit the campaign trail in a wheelchair.

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Hyperbole is the hallmark of Mamata Banerjee’s brand of politics, say her critics. This is probably because the West Bengal Chief Minister is seen as a ‘street fighter’, which she herself claims to be. She knows well how to turn a disadvantage into advantage.

The week began with the high drama of Hindu Brahmin Mamata Banerjee’s Chandi path and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) counter with the Kalma jibe. Now, for the wounded tigress and Bengal’s Didi, addressing rallies in a wheelchair seems to be a picture perfect image to go with a polarised election.

She knows how to salvage an adverse political situation and use an unusual incident or an inconvenience or even a bodily harm to gain political mileage. This is why Mamata Banerjee is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.


Also read: EC might punish police personnel in charge of Mamata Banerjee’s security, says official


Mamata’s Nandigram message  

If her decision to contest the assembly election from Nandigram, once a political flashpoint of the anti-land acquisition movement, gave BJP the jolt, a ‘Mamata under attack’ brings fresh challenges for the Opposition. The two-time chief minister cut short her two-day trip to the constituency and returned to Kolkata on Wednesday after she alleged that during campaigning, she was pushed by 4-5 men and had received injuries on her foot, shoulder and neck.

Immediately after she was hurt, as the car door was slammed shut on her foot, she called the incident an “attack on her”, a “conspiracy’. Even though she refrained from taking any party’s name, her colleagues alleged it was a ‘conspiracy by the BJP’. A day later, a team of senior Trinamool leaders went even further. In a letter to the Election Commission (EC), they stated, “The attack is a deep rooted conspiracy to take the life of our chairperson”. The EC responded terming the letter as “full of insinuation”.

Banerjee, who was admitted to a state-run hospital on Wednesday, released a video message Thursday, which showed her lying on the hospital bed, looking frail and with a plaster on her left leg. She appealed to her workers and supporters to stay calm, and stated that she was hurt while campaigning as the crowd swelled. Call it a promise or prediction, on Friday night, she was out of the hospital in a wheelchair.

West Bengal will for the first time see a chief minister and a fiery leader, who never bows down, hit the campaign trail in a wheelchair. ‘Mamata in a wheelchair’ is an image that may evoke extreme public sympathy, as is being felt by many in Trinamool, and the Opposition understands this well. The senior leaders in the BJP, the Congress and the CPM discarded the incident in Nandigram as a “drama” to draw “sympathy”.

But BJP or not, this is what Mamata Banerjee is. She sensed the groundswell, took it on herself and reached every constituency through administrative and political meetings. And she can match the BJP’s poison.


Also read: Namasudras are getting closer to BJP in West Bengal. There is a tradeoff


Recurring rhetoric

Politicians, especially the rabble rousers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, generally rely more on rhetoric than reality when they address people.

For Mamata Banerjee, the recurring trope in her speeches has been ‘imminent death threat’. She keeps telling people that she might be “murdered” any day for fighting against the powerful.

It has been the standard line in her speeches since her Opposition days. Banerjee, in the past, was allegedly assaulted, heckled and manhandled on multiple occasions by the Left Front-backed goons and the police during her agitations, including in Singur and Nandigram.

After the Nandigram incident this week, old photos of an injured Didi from the days of her agitation (Nandigram and Singur) against the Left front government are doing the rounds on social media with the tagline: “She could not be defeated then, she will not be defeated now.” This is how she wants to be portrayed, as a “fighter”.

 

Mamata Banerjee’s combative approach continued even after she assumed office. In December 2016, when an Indigo flight that had Banerjee on board got delayed at the Kolkata airport, the chief minister was quick to call it a conspiracy and her party disrupted Parliament, claiming the flight was low on fuel. In the same month, the Bengal Chief Minister opened another front in her battle against the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, objecting to the presence of Army soldiers at toll booths on national highways in her state, saying the Bengal government’s permission should have been sought. “Is this a military coup?” she had asked, adding, “even for a mock drill, the Army has to take the state’s permission, and they have not.”

The chief minister spent the night in her office at the secretariat Nabanna, refusing to go home till the Army left.

When the chief minister’s nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee was critically injured in a road accident in October 2016, she had termed it a conspiracy to kill him. Repeating her charge at a public meeting last month, she said that they tried to kill Abhishek too.

Banerjee claims she had survived multiple attacks and that her body is full of injury marks.

The injuries that Didi had received through her days of political struggle, especially as an Opposition leader in the state, might be real, but she also knows well how to spin them and gain political mileage. Many of her allegations have not been proven or substantiated, but Banerjee never blinks.

Didi’s style and brand of politics bring her political and electoral dividend too. It is to be seen how this image of a street fighter plays out this election. Can an injured ‘Bengal’s daughter’ win back those jumping ship?

Views are personal.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. You can fool all the people sometimes, some people all the time, but never all the people all the time.

  2. Agree. No need of BJP in W.Bengal when the Hindu Bengalis don t understand that their homeland will betaken away by Isalamists that to , not in too distant future . leftists and TMC made ground fertile for that. Refugee status is awaiting for most of the Hindus of Bengal. Keep this in mind when you go to polling booths.

  3. As a BJP supporter I want Mamta to win, since that will mean more development in UP. If BJP comes to power in WB then the development focus will shift to WB.

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