Bhubaneswar: Mamata Banerjee-led All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) alliance secured 227 seats in 2011 West Bengal assembly elections marking the end of the longest-ruling democratically elected Communist party in the world, the CPI(M). Mamata’s landslide victory over the CPI (M) was not an overnight affair, it involved decades of hard work and winning confidence of the masses. She went on to clinch the second consecutive term in 2016 with a convincing two-thirds majority.
However, in 2019 general elections, TMC’s grip over West Bengal slackened with BJP winning 18 seats. The saffron party got over 40 per cent of the vote share, a whopping gain of 30 per cent from the 2016 assembly election. The political dynamics in the state began to change. BJP made inroads in Mamata Didi’s backyard.
A book – ‘The Bengal Conundrum‘, authored by Senior Journalist and Academician Sambit Pal analyses the rise of the BJP and the future of the TMC in West Bengal.
During a candid conversation with OMMCOM NEWS, Pal, an Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal, said, “It is a classic irony that Bengal discussed jobs and investment during 2007 elections. And today (15 years later) the state’s politics revolves around polarisation.”
Below are the excerpts of the discussion with the Author…
“In 2011, Mamata Banerjee had shown that there was no opposition to her. She had absorbed all opposition. In 2016, when Mamata Banerjee had come to power for the second time, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had taken over the reins of the BJP, and their focus had changed in terms of Bengal. I wanted to document what exactly led to the surge of Rightist politics in West Bengal. What Banerjee had done for Bengal and what went wrong with the Left parties, needed to be documented.”
“Mamata Banerjee has been a lone fighter. She became the messiah of poor farmers during the anti-land acquisition movement. Everybody who was disturbed with the Left-policies sided with Mamata. Her problems were, she believed in absolutism and in the process tried to decimate the opposition by poaching Congress and Left MLAs. Infrastructure-wise she has done a lot in Bengal but she has lost touch with the people.”
“Grassroots level corruption hit TMC hard in 2019 elections. BJP came into Bengal and caught Mamata on the wrong foot in terms of Muslim appeasement in Bengal. TMC is considered to be anti-left and pro-Bengal party but does not have a very strong ideological foundation as the RSS and BJP.”
“Every TMC leader will tell you that the rise of Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Mamata has caused a lot of resentment in the ranks and file of the party.”
“Bengal has a long history of political polarisation. Post-independence Bengal had fertile ground for Hindutva politics. But the consolidation of the Left and their control over masses managed to keep the polarisation sentiments subdued. Now the BJP has ignited that old scar. They are trying to mobilise people on religious lines. Some people are not really happy with what is happening.”
The situation is very volatile at the moment. What will happen in 2021 elections cannot be predicted, said Pal. “Mamata Banerjee is trying very hard to rebuild her image and organise the party workers.”
In the book, Pal has critically evaluated Mamata’s tenure as Chief Minister – what went wrong with her in terms of governance, politics and organisation. Then he writes about how BJP has taken advantage of the situation. How Left parties’ decline was responsible for these changing dynamics has also been documented.
Pal concludes, “The challenge with BJP is that the party still does not have a credible chief ministerial face against Mamata Banerjee. This will be a major advantage for the Trinamool Congress. Wait and watch remains the rule.”