The Narada sting operation has perhaps posed the biggest challenge to Mamata Banerjee's political career.
A couple of weeks before the first of the seven phases of the West Bengal Assembly election takes off, this sting operation showing a number of top leaders and ministers of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) 'accepting' bribes to help set up a fictitious company has put the party in a spot.
The Opposition has felt extremely encouraged by this and they have launched attack against Banerjee's party with renewed vigour. Even the BJP, a fringe party in Bengal politics, has found a voice to corner the TMC in the Lok Sabha.
Why is Mamata looking so defensive this time?
Amid all the chaos that the poll-bound state has found itself in, almost all observers who are closely monitoring the developments, have asked a common question: Why is Mamata Banerjee, revered for her honesty, has not spoken on the issue yet in her signature style?
Why is the leader, who has set several examples in the past on her uncompromising stand on corruption, is not warning the culprits saying if the sting operation is proved to be true, she will not spare anybody. In fact she has not even taken spoken about the content of the footage so far and has kept her vocabulary limited to the common term called "conspiracy"?
Why is Mamata Banerjee silent on the actual problem?
Two possible reasons for Mamata's avoiding the core problem
There could be two big reasons for this defensive posture of the TMC supremo.
TMC chief is perhaps not confident about her partymen
First, Banerjee herself is not very sure about the issue. In the wake of the Saradha chit-fund scam, she might not be very sure about her own party leaders even though she has spoken in their defence time and again. But she also saw a temporary gap with Mukul Roy, a close aide, in connection to the scam probe.
So she is perhaps not ready to speak too much into the content from the very beginning and is pushing other leaders of her party top defend the party. If the charges prove to be true, then Banerjee's indifference could at least save her individually face disgrace.
In the past, Mamata Banerjee has always demanded resignation of leaders who have been accused of corruption charges. In 2001, she pulled out of the NDA protesting the corruption charges against BJP leaders. Now, the table has turned against herself with the Opposition seeking ouster of the accused TMC leaders. The TMC supremo understands this dilemma fully well and has perhaps adopted a delaying tactic.
Mamata has to choose between the devil and deep blue sea
The second reason emanates from this point. If Mamata follows her own principal and asks the accused leaders to quit, the party can collapse in no time. It's a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea for the TMC chief. If she acts, her party will be in jeopardy. If she doesn't, her own image could be damaged irreparably.The Narada issue could make Mamata Banerjee face a serious challenge in days to come and that challenge could also disable the rebel in her permanently. She will not be able to attack her opponents with the same 'anti-corruption' weapon after the Saradha and Narada episodes.
Narada has given a definite shape to Saradha charges in public mind and that could damage Mamata's image permanently
Narada has given a visual shape to what the people had thought of in the Saradha chit-fund scam, the probe into which suddenly lost momentum in the public domain after a point of time. For Mamata Banerjee, this is a huge challenge to her credibility. Is she losing control of her party?
The Narada, hence, has revived the Saradha effect just when the elections are at the doorsteps. Whoever has thought of releasing the footage now, has certainly given it a lot of thought.Banerjee missed a big opportunity to save her and the TMC's face by ordering an internal probe into the matter.
It would have helped her protect her own image by giving a message to the people that she is not ready to compromise.But she chose not to act. We have all seen how Manmohan Singh perished because she considered silence as gold. Is Mamata the next in line to be ridiculed by history?