Is Mamata losing the plot? From doctors' strike to ‘cut money’ debacle, Didi is plunging into crisis

Arindam De
Arindam DeJun 29, 2019 | 14:22

Is Mamata losing the plot? From doctors' strike to ‘cut money’ debacle, Didi is plunging into crisis

The TMC supremo seems absolutely unable to handle either provocations from the BJP or pressures within her own party. Will Mamata Banerjee push the TMC to breaking point?

"Desh mei rehna hoga to Shri Ram kehna hoga/Vande Mataram kehna hoga" and ".............. if you are coming to Bengal] you have to speak in Bengali.”

Is there any intrinsic difference in these two statements given what they insinuate? Is linguistic and regional nationalism an antidote to religious nationalism? Is it a cure? Is it a counter? Neither — it is the same old British-origin ideology of 'Divide and Rule'. Separate, segregate, create insecurities, stoke fear, all for a few votes more.

Earlier on Friday, news surfaced that the West Bengal government was mulling construction of dining rooms for midday meals in state-run schools in Cooch Behar district, having more than 70% minority students.

The denial from the West Bengal CM was swift.

The explanation offered was that it was a technical issue of channelising Minority Welfare funds into the mid-day meal scheme. The CM said there was no intention to divide the school kids. Well said, but the keyword is 'intention'. Intent over an action is not always explained in details and reading between the lines often throws up multiple connotations. While both cannot be equated, if 'intent' alone is the benchmark, then there can be no denying the good one in this circular, and, say, for example, in the decision of demonetisation — actual 'effects' notwithstanding.

mamata690_062819085309.jpgNo, it's all about intent! Accused of minority appeasement multiple times, Mamata Banerjee is now reacting. (Source: India Today)

Since the steep hike in the vote and seat count of the BJP in the General Election 2019, the West Bengal CM is on overdrive. She has blamed EVMs, refused to attend the PM's swearing-in ceremony, took a strong stand in the doctors' agitation, before taking a step back and reiterated her policy of appeasing minorities rather bluntly — 'Je goru dudh dei tar lathio khete hoi; (if a cow gives milk, one has to be prepared for its kicks also)," (May 25, 2019). The non-Bengali-speaking population was sought to be linked with all that 'troubles' the state. Then, she asked all corrupt leaders to either shape up or shift out. The masterpiece came when she asked party members to return 'cut money' they may have received from various sources.

That set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.

Can anyone question the 'intent'? No.

Is it doable? No.

While there is no denying that large sections of the party are quite used to commissions and cut money, in fact, not all are corrupt.

But this has given the BJP a readymade issue — reports suggest that they are leading demonstrations targeted at 'tainted' leaders and functionaries and demanding payback. Reports emerged that a party youth leader in Santipur, Nadia was found hanging. Some suggest he may have committed suicide after demands of returning cut-money grew louder. Clean party members have pushed back, saying Didi's dictum has made them vulnerable. Their displeasure at the involvement of higher-ups in the party is clear. This has forced the party to tweak the focus of the campaign — but the damage may have already been done.

The rot runs deep and the CM's admission that her party workers are not sparing even the dead, and are charging 10% of Rs 2,000 that the state government gives to the poor to cremate their near and dear ones, has literally opened a Pandora's box. Conservative estimates suggest that hundreds of Trinamool workers are leaving the party daily and heading to the BJP.

That the party and its leaders seem to be tying itself in knots certainly does not help its cause. 

newmamata690_062819085330.jpg The ‘cut money’ debacle: A party youth leader allegedly committed suicide over Didi's ‘return the money’ statement. (Source: India Today)

Yes, Mukul Roy, her one-time-trusted-aide-turned-opponent, keeper of her secrets and aware of her moves and posturing, is not making things easy for her. For now, she seems to be yielding to every provocation, be it random chants of 'Jai Shri Ram' or charges of corruption against her party members.

But the civic polls are due in 2020 — and then, the big battle for 2021 is looming.

For the first time, Mamata Banerjee is facing a resourceful and resolute opposition in her hitherto unchallenged turf. Erstwhile staunch supporters like Bengal's hugely popular singer, philosopher, conscience keeper, Nachiketa, uploading a single titled 'cut-money' addressed to a certain 'Didimoni', is leaving little to the public imagination and certainly not helping. Although the singer himself is insisting that he stands by Didi, the writing is on the wall.

Before out-manoeuvring the BJP, Didi needs to set her house in order. A tall order — and even star strategists like Prashant Kishore can only help so much.

Last updated: June 29, 2019 | 14:22
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