Mamata Express: You can't stop her anymore
There hasn't been any full stop in the political story of West Bengal for thirty-three years. After the civic poll results were declared, we can almost see that punctuation mark - even the end of the chapter. Mamata Banerjee, the only person who stood up and challenged the Left Front is rewriting history. These elections were not about civic issues, not about roads, electricity and water. These elections asked the voter if there should be a change in Bengal next year. And the electorate said a resounding yes. It's a pity that Mamata Banerjee doesn't use a small word like change. She says parivartan in Bengali. And parivartan is what she is going to bring about by May, 2011.
It's symbolic that the government of the proletariat is being brought down by a woman who's plebian in every way possible. She hasn't received a classy upbringing. Her father couldn't send her to an English-medium school. She was a college-going adult in the mid-seventies when politics in Bengal had begun to accommodate the riffraff. Uninhibited, she jumped up on the bonnet of Jaiprakash Narayan's car. She was never going to be a woman who'd spend money on clothes, cosmetics and jewellery. She had another dream. She loved the political rostrum. She wanted to stand at a height which gave her sense of a pedestal. She wanted to address an audience who'd believe her. Not that she carried the genes of a Demosthenes. Her oratory was all about connecting with ordinary people with ordinary dreams. Her politics was constructed around three words with which she would coin a slogan years later --- Ma, Mati, Manush (Mother, Motherland, Mankind).
Somebody invented that old adage "Failure is the pillar of success" for Mamata Banerjee. It's a clichéd, hackneyed way of describing her enormous struggle. But then there's no other way of looking at the innumerable defeats she suffered though the decades. Hers was not to be a magical journey. She did not climb to the top like Jack on his beanstalk. Hers was a gradual clambering up the tree of success - sliding down two feet for every three feet that she gained. Jyoti Basu was a towering figure, the CPM organisational machinery functioned like a network of robots and the land reforms agenda had performed a political miracle. Mamata Banerjee was up against every conceivable odd. She had to endure a lethal blow on the head to find her political space, to define herself as the one-woman company marching against the Reds. Her party-men had resigned themselves to a lifelong exile from the seat of power. They looked for easy and demeaning compromises. Mamata Banerjee refused to be lured into traps laid by the Left.
Today, the real Congress in West Bengal belongs to her. She has proved that Pranab Mukherjee may be an exceptional governance person but he is a rank outsider in Bengal politics. The next Trinamool-Congress alliance will be on her terms after the phenomenal civic results. With less than a year to go for the big Assembly polls, Mamata has started calling the shots. And it won't be surprising if more Congressmen queue up outside the Trinamool office for a chance to be on the winning side. Success has many fathers and even a larger number of friends. Everybody opposed to the Left in West Bengal is making a pilgrimage to that single-storied house on Kalighat Road where Mamata leads an austere life.
For the Left, there's no way they can reverse this momentum. They had tried. The emotions that were witnessed after Jyoti Basu's death gave them the false hope that possibly Mamata was losing ground. But that is not to be. Bengal wants change. The electorate had made the Left invincible for more than thirty years. In Singur and Nandigram, that same electorate witnessed the arrogance born out of a belief in invincibility. That is why this alienation of the people from the Left. That is why the Left is being taught a lesson. Mamata Banerjee has become the face of that change. Her efforts are finally going to triumph. Some friends of the Left are even suggesting that the Left should call early elections and make a graceful exit.
There'll always be the doubts that the street-smart Mamata Banerjee has proved her worth as a rabble-rouser but would she be able to deliver as a head of the government. She had excelled in street-fights with the Left but does she really have a vision when it comes to the serious business of governance. Her politics is often crass, occasionally petty and sometimes vindictive. Would she be able to plan for a future the way a tall political figure like Dr Bidhan Roy could? May be, may be not. Mamata Banerjee may come through as a rustic personality but over the past few years she has matured as an astute politician. She is delegating responsibilities in a way she had never done before. Yes, she may still do the unethical by staying away from Delhi when she has taken responsibility for the railway ministry but you cannot accuse her of losing her focus.
In 2011, Writers Buildings in Kolkata will welcome the first woman chief minister of West Bengal.