Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said in an election rally in Kolkata that had she known about the Narada sting operation before, she would have given a second thought to fielding the accused leaders in the ongoing election. But once the candidates' list was declared, she couldn't do anything else.
Banerjee released the list of 294 candidates on March 4, hours after the Election Commission announced the schedule for this year's Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory.
Banerjee's stand on Narada has only got softer with time
The TMC chief's latest words show that she has come far away from the strong stand she had taken after learning about the sting operation for the first time. She counter-attacked the sting operation showing her leaders 'accepting' bribes but soon, she could realise that her party was getting more and more buried in the issue.
The ghosts of the Saradha chit fund scam became alive again and the collapse of an under-construction flyover in North Kolkata exposed more allegations of syndicate and corruption against the ruling party.
Narada, Saradha, flyover collapse, syndicate---Mamata suddenly saw herself under immense pressure
The pressure became so vigorous that Banerjee started softening her stand and was even seen virtually pleaded the voters for support. She was heard saying "he is not a thief" about a party candidate or "please do not desert us" to the audience while addressing rallies in different parts of the state.
The frustration was also visible in her unsparing attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even the Election Commission which has taken all possible steps this time to ensure that the polls are held fairly and peacefully. The TMC also gave up under the pressure and called for an internal probe into the issue though that did not buy much conviction among the chief minister's critics.
Mamata magic may still work in rural parts but in Kolkata and suburbs, it may not be an easywalk this time
Mamata Banerjee's magic might still work in the rural parts of the state but with in Kolkata and its suburbs, it might become a different ball-game this time even though the TMC has a brute majority in these parts. Election will take place in Kolkata on April 21 and 30 and although the TMC had won 96 out of 109 seats in Kolkata and the four adjoining districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly, the urban and semi-urban voters of these areas may feel otherwise while casting their ballots this time, thanks to issues like Saradha, Narada and Singur.
And a nervous Mamata Banerjee said the ultimate remark she can make under these circumstances: "Would have given a second thought".
Mamata has much to lose this time, unlike in 2011
Unlike the situation in 2011 when she had everything to win, the TMC supremo has everything to lose this time and this has made her more nervous. She is also worried for not just losing power but even her own image of honesty, something she had worked hard over the years to grow in the public domain. But Banerjee's indirect acknowledgement at the rally on Sunday has come far too late now.
Moreover, this could also see a serious crack developing in the party in the near future for any form of adversity on May 19 (even if a sharp fall in TMC's seats if not a defeat) can derail the party which has little ideological grounding to keep itself together.
Banerjee's opportunist lieutenants will not spare an opportunity to demean her if the result of this election doesn't favour the TMC. The supremo of the party in a shambles now has nobody else but the electorate to look forward to to find an exit route.
In the middle of a high-stake election, Mamata Banerjee looks a leader who has been let down by her own party.