Mamata Banerjee made the situation unnecessarily tricky for herself and was ultimately forced to make a U-turn. That she understood the intrigues of realpolitik and mended her ways reluctantly, was a good sign but what was a concern is that the leader might have cost the state's financial prospects dearly because of the unnecessary drama.
Arguments like a Bengali opposing another Bengali are absolutely not right. Mamata Banerjee had little reason to disapprove of Pranab's candidature for the latter was also a Bengali. What precisely was the reason was her 'unhappy marriage' with the Congress in general and personality clashes with Pranab in particular.
Mamata's unnecessary drama:
Mamata just tried to assert her dominance over the 'hapless' Congress thinking the latter would toe her line given the fact that it was heading a coalition government atg the Centre. But Mamata's megalomania could not understand that discarding a Dinesh Trivedi from the post of the Railway Minister was not same as rubbishing Pranab Mukherjee, given the latter is a seasoned politician and not exactly unpopular with quarters. We, in India, after all, cherish old as gold and would never consider what the senior man failed to do as the Finance Minister.
The second error was to bank on Mulayam, known to ditch allies many a times. Mamata Banerjee, one might feel, did not do a thorough homework before forging an non-viable friendship with Mulayam, who always needed Congress to back his political ambition in the future. May be the Bengal Chief Minister could take a lesson about how politics in UP work from two of her recent contradictory experiences, believing Mulayam and winning an assembly seat in UP in the recent by-polls.During this time, Mamata made another move which was clearly uncomfortable for the alliance. She floated the PM's name as her choice of the presidential candidate, reflecting a sense of no-confidence on Manmohan Singh as a leader.
The third weakness of Mamata which got exposed was her poor alliance-management and strategy-making skills. What Mamata fails to understand is that she holds alliance with the same party, both at the state and the Centre. Any wrong overtures towards the Centre would definitely create problems for her in the state and particularly when there are lots of local leaders who would be more than happy to see her fall.
In such a situation, giving more importance to the ego clash with Pranab and not realpolitik did her more harm. Had Mamata used the occasion to minimise all gaps with Pranab and engage in a patient game that could earn the state quid pro quo in long term, her electoral support face would have been more convinced. UP and Bihar are already reaping the benefits of supporting Pranab Mukherjee in terms of the cash and kind benefits that they have recently received from the Centre. Mamata has not learnt much from her 2001 experience.
Fourthly, Mamata, irrespective of her claims on Tuesday that the Trinamool is a party of ideologies, has clearly lost to her oppositions on some counts. By backing Pranab, Mamata ensured that she was lining up with CPI(M), something unthinkable under normal conditions. Had Mamata decided to back Pranab from the very beginning, the entire Left Front could have found itself out in the cold. She just gave a space to the Left, which could go a long way in helping CPI(M) undo the blunders of 2008.
The state Congress will be more than happy with Mamata's U-turn, claiming it to be a victory in the prestige battle and feel bolstered to disrupt her governance in every other matter. Strategically, Mamata's blunder gave a breather to her opponents.
A fifth factor, which resulted from the entire episode, was Mamata opening a new means to canvass support and that is a social networking site. 'Cursing Mechiavellian politics' is a politics to stand by her loyal support base, which would not see anything wrong in her way of functioning in the next ten years for sure. Publishing letters written to her by Pranab and Krishna Bose shows she is in a mood to find more and more solace among her supporters.
Social networking is a good medium to reach out to people no doubt but one wonders what Mamata will eventually end up doing with it. Already the Congress has crossed sword with her in this field over naming Krishna Bose, a kin of Netaji Subhas Bose, as a candidate for the vice-presidential election. Even Bose gave her approval to the Congress's charges that the Trinamool brought her back from the wilderness after eight long years only to gain mileage from the Netaji connection.
Mamata Banerjee just saved the day for herself and the party and kept the possibilities for the alliance to inch ahead, a news not very good for the BJP for it had desired to bring Mamata back to its fold. May be that Mamata, a chief minister now and not just an opposition leader, understood that stakes are much high for those in power and hence responsibility is the order of the day. Will she abide by the lesson? That's what we need to watch.