For the uninitiated, on any other day the massive swarm of people coming from distant districts, gathering at the Sealdah and Howrah station in the morning and then moving in unison towards the Brigade ground would have been misconstrued as another protest rally of either the Left Parties or that of the ruling TMC. But 5th of February, 2014 was different. The countdown for it had started long time back and the BJP state machinery left no stone unturned to show its increasing strength in the state.
Modi's speech was a nuanced one. Knowing the emotional bondage Bengalis have with Swami Vivekanand, Netaji Subhas Bose and Rabindranath Tagore, he touched upon all of them and questioned why Congress did not allow Pranab Mukherjee to become the Prime Minister of India either in 1984 or 2004. While being unsparing towards the Third Front and its constituents, he stated that if they had seen the swelling crowds in Kolkata today, they would have realised in which direction the wind is blowing, a clear snub to Nitish Kumar who, after being ignored by Congress, is now trying to shape up a motley group or regional parties in the run up to the national elections.
BJP may ride on the Modi wave to gradually consolidate its position in Bengal
While being unsparing to the Left Front for ruining Bengal, Modi lauded Bengal electorate for throwing out the Left parties from power but asked as to whether the people of Bengal have got the change they were promised by the present regime and appealed to vote for BJP this time for bringing the development to Bengal which had eluded it for decades. He asked the electorate to be unsparing and force accountability on the government.
The balanced criticism of the appalling governance of ruling TMC and questioning as to whether it has brought change for good in Bengal, as well as touching upon the issues of Bangladeshi infiltration was meant to send out clear signals that an increasingly confident BJP has numbers in its favour from other possible allies like TDP, AIADMK and BJD and thus even though Mamata is not unwelcome, she may not be allowed to criticize BJP, and go away with that. It was not unknown to Narendra Modi that a considerable amount of disgruntlement against Mamata regime does exist.
Punching a glaring hole on the Mamata's pet ‘Paribartan'paradigm was synchronised with appeal for giving BJP a chance for Paribartan by electing it to power in 2014 national elections even while making clear that the vote is for general elections and not for assembly elections.
Primarily, with opinion polls indicating NDA stopping just short of majority and with projections of some of major regional parties and possible BJP allies like BJD, YSR Congress, TDP and AIADMK expected to perform well, ally hunting worries of BJP has lessened quite a bit.
Leaving the door open....
However, Modi's calibrated speech stopped short of taking direct barb at Mamata, thereby leaving ample space for negotiations and manoeuvres in the post poll scenario even while making it clear that the leverage is with BJP and not other way round. The NDA PM nominee intelligently avoided some of the extremely embarrassing issues for Mamata regime including the Saradha Chit Fund Scam and the increasing instances of crime against woman in the state.
Economic compulsions may push Mamata towards NDA after elections...
For Mamata, today's rally might not have been surprising as being a seasoned politician and a Chief Minister she has enough resources to gauge the surging Modi wave in Bengal. While BJP is expected to win a few seats in Bengal whose chances may have increased even more after this rally, it is the vote share consolidation in favour of BJP which may go up to as much as 18% which might compel Mamata to mend much of her present lacunae and appeasement politics. If the trend continues like this, possibility of BJP consolidating even more and emerging as a challenger in 2016 assembly elections or a contender for the 2021 elections may not be a day dream anymore.
The NDA's elevation to power and delivery in terms of good governance as being promised by Narendra Modi may increase that chance by multiples. Further, a demoralised CP(I)M may sway the electorate more towards a rising BJP as also evident by the mood of the youth especially the educated professionals and college going first time voters who thronged the rally en masse yesterday.
Mamata's real compulsion is the appalling condition of the state finances and sheer lack of investments coming into the state. In spite of her personal popularity and her party's continuing good run, deep inside she knows it too well that inability to garner investments, failing to improve law & order and not being able to stop the Bangladeshi infiltrators may make the electorate repeat of what it did on Left Front. Therefore, her grand posturing notwithstanding, she would have little choice but to warm up to NDA if it comes to power in 2014.
While much of the things remain on the conditions of ‘ifs' and ‘buts', it seems now that BJP has real potential now to increase the hold of the party in Bengal riding on the NAMO wave. It would be interesting thing to see how things shape up in Bengal politics over the next one decade. Surely, politics and elections would not end with 2014.
Seeds of a long haul game were perhaps sown in Bengal in Modi's rally. And going by the mood of the youth, especially the educated professionals and college goers, it is proof enough that the resonance of the Modi wave has surely implanted its ripples here in a big way.