The Ramlila Maidan shocker: Mamata’s encounter with harsh reality

Written by: Pathikrit
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Perhaps no one else must have studied the Arvind Kejriwal phenomenon with more intent than Mamata Banerjee and her close aides did. And perhaps no one else attempted to emulate the path of Kejriwal with so much vigor that Mamata Banerjee did. She must have had noticed that the path taken by Kejriwal would perhaps be the easiest one to come within the striking distance of her national ambitions or at least being in contention for the top job. But alas, the outcome was almost like an anti climax of what she had thought it would turn out to be.

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The Gameplan

And thus with all her wisdom perhaps a strategy was chalked out to piggyback on Anna Hazare in the same manner in which Kejriwal did during the Indian Against Corruption movement. Kejriwal's strategy of leveraging the appeal of Anna Hazare for having a pan India impact and then in a calibrated manner gradually sidelining the octogenarian social activist to create a new political entity with himself as the numero uno leader must have impressed Mamata a lot. One should not be surprised by Mamata's eagerness to walk on that path. Perhaps she has been miffed with the kind of attention that Kejriwal has been getting but not Mamata. So she must have been advised by her coterie to use Anna Hazare to endorse her as a national candidate for Prime Minister and hoped that it would be good enough to make millions across the country flock around her.

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With this hope perhaps she had landed in Delhi for the Ramlila Maidan rally expecting the crowd chanting her name en masse and ready to honor the lady from Bengal as the newfound saviour of Mother India. That the situation of Bengal under her rule has become a nightmare with crime against women at an all time high is another issue altogether though. That Bengal's lawlessness and one of the lowest incidences of investments coupled with rampant patronising of the ruling party members is not to be discussed though.

The Shock that Greeted Her

With hope that Ramilila Maidan was about to catapult her from a state leader to a stature where she would be compared to none other than Narendra Modi, the ground reality of the situation when she actually reached the place must have given her the shock of her lifetime. At most there were two thousand people even though more than fifty thousand chairs were lined up there. A man with grey hair was trying best to pep up the mood by playing guitar and singing songs which no one was interested in singing. Even among the two thousand odd people who had lined up there, it did not seem much that their enthusiasm or passion for Mamata (as the next savior of India) was the reason for which they had come.

Even as Mamata's close aides including Mukul Roy were trying their best to convince Anna Hazare to reach the rally, television channels were time and again showing visuals of Mamata perhaps seething with anger and horribly shocked with the turn of the event. Part of the problem is also related to the reasonable crowd that her party has always been able to garner for her rallies in Bengal. And thus there was perhaps this presumption that it can be replicated in Delhi too. But Delhi is no Bengal most Delhiites are perhaps no more in a mood to repeat the same stances especially after the huge debacle with their trust on Kejriwal. And Mamata is no Modi either that she would any day be able to gather a few lakh people just by spreading the message of her arrival. But that was perhaps what she must have been made to falsely believe by her coterie that if Modi can pull such crowds, Didi can too.

Dear Didi- India is not Bengal

The tryst with the shocking reality that Mamata faced was so stark that perhaps it would take time for her to come to terms with it. She was quick to pass on the buck to Anna Hazare by claiming that it was essentially not her rally but that of Anna Hazare in which she was asked to come. Reality though was perhaps the very opposite of that. Hopefully she has realised by now that the distance of her ambitions from being at the helm of affairs in Bengal to managing the nation from Delhi is much more than what she had comprehended. She might choose at will anyone as a candidate from her party to contest the Lok Sabha polls and that those candidates might range from Moon Moon Sen to every other Bengali actor of Kolkata. She might still expect many of them to win and sing paeans in her praise. She might do any kind of vote bank appeasement politics in Bengal and win seats but that would perhaps not be good enough to make her a Prime Ministerial candidate.

Is Mamata Hoping to be the Next Devegowda or I K Gujral?

That she is far away from that possibility was made clear to her by the mood in the Ramlila Maidan. Even Kejriwal, in spite of all the hype created around him, would have a long way to go and prove much mettle instead of quitting and becoming the perennial problem child of Indian politic to come anywhere near to contending for the top job. True, there have been occasions when political instability and lack of clear mandate did create rag tag governments with rank outsiders with no mass base becoming Prime Minister of India. Be it Deve Gowda or IK Gujral or Chandrashekhar, they did become Prime Ministers for short periods of time but no one remembers them for any real feat or the most forgettable periods when they became Prime Ministers. Essentially, no prize for guessing that they became Prime Ministers as a result of political calculations and for being safe and weak candidates and not because of their mass appeal, vision or conviction.

Why the Likes of Mamata or Nitish are not the Mood of the Nation

Be it Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee, they have time and again tried to express their latent desire for the top job but they fail to realise that contesting for the top job is not a child's play. Especially ten years of policy paralysis, indecisive governance and sheer mismanagement of economy and national security because of a supposedly ‘selected' and not a 'elected' weak Prime Minister with not much mass appeal of his own, has made India a restless nation. Today, having a clean image is not the only issue to make one eligible for the top job.

Today India is looking for a man with conviction, vision and ability to take decisive actions as well as quick and bold decisions, to become the Prime Minister and lead the nation. Likes of Mamata Banerjee or Nitish Kumar, leave alone their extremely limited or rather nonexistent appeal beyond their respective states, have never stated clearly as to what their vision for India's national security, national economy, foreign policy, fight against terrorism, agricultural policy and the much needed administrative reforms, are. No prize for guessing that even though massive and rampant illegal immigration of Bangladeshis is a major issue in India, Mamata has always remained silent on that issue, thanks to vote bank politics, even though her own state has been suffering from this malaise for quite some time now.

Likewise, on issues of national security and terrorism, one wonders if ever anyone has heard Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee making any right kind of comment or laying down their own vision on the same. Mamata's stringent anti industry stance during the height of Tata Nano agitation is not something that would be accepted in more industrialised and pro-business states of India.

Was this the Much Needed Reality Check for Mamata Banerjee?

Even as Anna Hazare refused to attend the Ramlila Maidan in spite of the embarrassment it caused to Mamata Banerjee, his meeting with Gen (Retd) VK Singh, later on that day did indicate many a thing. Overall, as it stands today, even as much the likes of Mamata, Nitish Kumar and a few others may attempt to project themselves as alternative and try to belittle the Modi wave, fact of the matter remains, that deep inside each of them knows which way the wind is blowing and how much impossible it is for any of them to turn the tide away from that wave into their favour.

For the time being, they have been kept sulking in their own den while Modi's rallies continue to create ripples across the length and breadth of the nation. At least for the time being, this is the reality. It would take perhaps much more for each of them than to merely having an anti-Modi stand to make a difference. That no more sells in India. The national electorate has evolved and the pro-Modi mood is palpable. It is time for Nitish and Mamata to wake up to that reality.

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