Didi’s ‘national designs’ clear in TMC manifesto
Upcoming Lok Sabha Polls is an opportunity for Mamata to project herself as a credible face among the regional aspirants who are nursing ambitions beyond their regional contours.
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The Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) new logo — "Trinamool/ Amar, Aapnar, Banglaar" (Trinamool/ Mine, Yours, Bengal’s) — designed after much thinking with a change in the colour scheme — twin flowers etched in black and white, instead of saffron green, against a blue-white background, the staple colour-code of the state, saw a change on the day of release of the party’s poll manifesto.
Instead of these lines the changed catchline read: “Trinamool/ Ma, Maati, Manusher” (of the Mother, the Land and the People), the party’s pet slogan. While people kept wondering about the change, party supremo Mamata Banerjee cleared the fog. With the party’s manifesto looking for a national audience, TMC cannot be restricted to “Amar, Aapnar and Banglar”. It has to be inclusive and go beyond the boundaries of Bengal to encompass 'us' in a universal sense.
The Lok Sabha 2019 poll is no ordinary election. It is an opportunity for Mamata to project herself as a credible face among a bunch of regional aspirants, who are also nursing ambitions beyond their regional contours. Not only was Mamata the first person to give the call for a united Opposition against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the National Democratic Alliance — she had always been the first, the foremost and the loudest in attacking Modi over his policies and activities. Naturally, she deserves to be a frontrunner for the post, held for so long by Narendra Modi.
Though she had been consistently claiming that she and Bengal will play a pivotal role this election, her coalition partners are somewhat cagey about endorsing her. They have their individual plans of seeing them play key roles as well. There were some murmurs from some junior-level leaders about Mamata being considered as a possibility, but soon there was a buzz from another corner about some other names. But, the Congress as the principal Opposition party at the Centre, towering over other parties in the Opposition conglomerate, had already strongly advocated for AICC president Rahul Gandhi as the most suitable for the post.
Anti-BJP party leaders from 20 different parties hold hands during the rally at Brigade Parade, Kolkata on January 19, 2019, that was hosted by Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress. (Photo: PTI)
Obviously, some of the leaders, including Mamata, did not take this kindly. But better sense prevailed and Gandhi was waiting to let the numbers do the talking after the polls. Meanwhile, Mamata is going all out to prove that she’s very much in the race. She’s not a short-distance sprinter, but a marathon runner, capable of lingering on the tracks, facing all odds and holding her breath till she has reached the finishing line.
Even as other regional aspirants such as Mayawati and N Chandrababu Naidu are yet to come up with a manifesto and spell out their future role, after the polls, in a changed political scenario, Mamata’s manifesto promises to undo all the wrongs of the NDA government. She has promised to not only rethink, review and reconstruct some of the policies of the current government but also promised to conduct a judicial probe into some to find out if such activities had commercially benefited the ruling BJP. “Why was demonetisation carried out? We want a judicial probe monitored by a former Supreme Court judge,” she said after releasing the manifesto. This is because she considers demonetisation to be the biggest scam to have hit the country at the common man’s expense.
Goods and services tax (GST) is another area she has promised to simplify and set right. Bringing back the Planning Commission tops her agenda because she thinks the NITI Aayog has little scope and space to hear out the states and honour the federal structure. Increasing the scope of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) or 100 days’ work to 200 days and doubling the wages, and women empowerment also happen to be Mamata Banerjee’s answer to the Congress’ Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) or minimum basic income scheme.
Looking for a national role, Mamata even went on to say that she would sweat out for Jammu and Kashmir. She would stay there, talk to the Kashmiri people and try and understand what they want before coming up with a diplomatic solution. Left Front chairman Biman Bose retorted sarcastically calling Mamata “Kashmir ki kali”. Taking a dig at her and her failure to honour democracy and plurality of political ideas in the state, Bose demanded that she should concentrate on restoring the democratic rights of different political parties in West Bengal before fantasising about a bigger role vis-à-vis Kashmir.
CPI(M) West Bengal chief Biman Bose (far left) has taken swipes at chief minister Mamata Banerjee (left) and called her ‘Kashmir ki kali’. (Image: DailyO)
But, why is Mamata making big promises? With a strong current of anti-incumbency against her, she is trying to direct the poll narrative on national issues such as demonetisation, GST, Aadhaar, unemployment and job attrition to tell the inhabitants of West Bengal that 2019 is the election to choose leaders for the Centre. In fact, bringing in the state-related issues and grievances will spoil the significance of the election, which is aimed at saving the country and restoring the Constitution by dethroning the BJP.
A long with this, Mamata is also trying to drill home the fact that this is an opportunity to increase her strength so that she can play a stronger role in government formation. Though she keeps repeating that she’s not interested in the ‘chair’, her calculated and calibrated disinterest cannot camouflage the interest with which she has gone positioning herself as the most suitable candidate for prime ministership.