A perception that an aggressive media failed to defeat Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the recent panchayat elections in West Bengal is doing the rounds. There is something seriously wrong in that perception.
And if some other party thinks that it could learn a lot from Banerjee's way of functioning, then it is seriously inviting disaster.
What does the victory of Mamata Banerjee imply? That she has a massive positive energy following her despite all odds and can not be defeated no matter what the media say? Completely misplaced judgment.
Very little to differentiate for rural, semi-urban voters in Bengal
It is true that each election, whether it is national, assembly or panchayat, has its own set of agenda. But in West Bengal at this moment, there is very little to differentiate for the voters, specially the semi-urban and rural ones. Hence, we are sure to witness Mamata Banerjee's party sweeping in the next Lok Sabha polls and also the 2016 assembly polls, the second victory a bit blunt perhaps compared to what it was in 2011.
Mamata looks invincible because there is no effective opposition
But there is no reason to believe that Banerjee has cast a magic that has made her invincible. She looks invincible at the moment simply because there is no opposition. The Left Front also witnessed such an invincibility during its heydays but once it crumbled, there is no guarantee that it can revive itself again. It has perhaps met its end forever. The media never did anything drastic to pull it down yet the Left couldn't evade its massive collapse. Politics has same yardstick for every politician and his or her party.
Left a no force now
The understanding that increasing rapes, law and order problem and a huge chit fund scam would have led to the Trinamool's loss in the rural polls is a kind of oversimplification. And neither the Left had the 'audacity' to believe that Mamata would soon commit a suicide.
It knows very well that it has no outside chance of even shaking the current regime on any issue, forget defeating it. The only option for the exhausted Left is to raise a rant on television channels against the TMC supremo but that is a futile exercise. The media can't influence election results by any means. It couldn't do it when the Left was in power and neither can today.
Mamata's counter-attack on media can be fatal in long term
But Mamata Banerjee has done her urban electorate a great disservice by counter-attacking the media. The venomous words uttered against the opposition and the media publicly hasn't done her image any good and the impact will be seen in the long run. The victory of the media, if we can term it so, which has gone unnoticed is that it has exposed Banerjee's shocking attacks on individuals for no reason. This is going to have an incremental effect on the story of Banerjee's slide, just like it had done in the case of her predecessors. The difference in Mamata's attitude could be seen when some seats will be lost, but that story is still sometime away.
Not forgotten or forgiven, the rural voters just need to survive
There is no reason to believe either that the rural voters have forgotten and forgiven Banerjee. The question of forgiving and forgetting arises when one has the freedom and option to choose from. In rural Bengal, it is just a green party domination which has replaced a red party's domination with little second chance. The rural voter has two ways before him or her, and they are the bad and the worse.
Thirty-four years of dark phase stop them from taking the worse path and the bad is the good for them. Chit fund scam or brutal rape have no relevance for those non-empowered rural individuals who just have to exhibit a party orientation for their daily survival. If one believes the media creates a perception for those people, they are wrong.
Media counts, even if indirectly
The media, at least in Bengal, is more effective in creating a perception among the urban electorate and there is no doubt that it has succeeded in achieving its aim. The reason is: The perception is not different from the reality that the urban people of the state are experiencing in their daily lives. We may see the other side of the story once the urban polls are conducted and then can arrive at a conclusion whether Mamata's panchayat victory tells the complete story.
Learn from Mamata at your own peril
As for other media-friendly parties, they can make use of their own brains to weigh the pros and cons of the business of handling the media for electoral benefits. The 'Mamata model' won't be of much realistic help for her honeymoon period is far from over.