Is Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) really looking in danger of losing the ongoing Assembly election? If the electoral tie-up, if not alliance, between the Congress and Left succeeds in humbling the ruling party at the hustings, how will Bengal's politics unfold in the near and distant future?
If the TMC loses this prestigious electoral battle (stakes are too high this time and it could be seen when Banerjee pleaded the voters for votes), the biggest impact of the consequences will be felt by none other but the supremo herself.
Assembly Polls 2016 Full Coverage
A defeat will mean the verdict of 2011 was not given its worth by a regime which came with a lot of hope and dream. And the onus will be the most on the supremo's shoulders since it is her who symbolised the historic change that Bengal saw five years earlier. It could be a blow that the poilitical career of 61-year-old Mamata Banerjee might not survive. [Why April 17 phase will be an acid test for Mamata Banerjee]
At 61, Mamata will struggle to restart again
But more than the age, Banerjee's bigger challenge will lie in getting her party back on the track if indeed there is an adversity. The party is in a shambles despite in power and one can well predict how it could go from here if it is thrown out of the office. [Good turnout in Phase 1B despite violence, heat]
We have seen in the past how the BJP was buried in doldrums after the 2009 Lok Sabha election defeat and it had to wait for a resurgence till the arrival of Narendra Modi. The Congress, too, is in an equally bad shape post its 2014 loss and has been desperately waiting for Rahul Gandhi to bring it back into shape.
The TMC's existence could also be in jeopardy if it loses this time
But for Mamata Banerjee's TMC, every hope lies with her and if she fails to defend it in this election against a typhoon of corruption charges, then there is little possibility of anybody else on this planet doing it.
Also if the TMC loses this election, there is every possibility of Bengal's politics getting fragmented further. And if this happens, the real parivartan (change) will only begin then in the state's political life.
Bengal's politics has seen far too long rules
Thanks to far too long rules by the Congress (1947-67, 1972-77) and Left Front (1977-2011), Bengal's political landscape looked more uniform than many other states. But if the TMC loses this election, it will be a change of guard far too quickly in the state's politics and that will open the sluice gates. How?
From here, the bhadrolok political culture will not help Bengal
Bengal's politics was for a long, long time dominated by the dhoti-clad bhadraloks who did not acknowledge a political diversity. An elite pattern of governance continued till 2011 without a single exception.
In 2011, the people who came to power were far from that bhadrolok tradition but to get the non-election endorsement from the people of the state who have a fair bias towards intellectual minds, they started pretending to be like their predecessors.
But the entire project failed to take off as we have seen in the last five years. And when that is accompanied by issues like failure to uplift the Muslims or disappointment in bringing in industries to employ the educated middle-class youths or even show sympathy towards women or farmers, one gets the feeling that Bengal's various constituencies are now ready to express their ill-feeling about the rulers and this disappointment can perhaps be never contained by the ruthless party control again.
The result: The possibility of the emergence of a fresh political pattern, which might be good or bad but will have a rattling impact on Bengal's socio-political life.
Bengal's politics will get fragmented in post-Mamata years --- the real parivartan
The days of stagnation in the state's political life, which many had mistaken as stabiliy, is over. Banerjee is perhaps the last leader who is getting to rule a Bengal which still resembles a party-dominated system of the past. From here on, once the monolith (the TMC's rule is an extension of that of the Left and hence a continuity) crumbles, Bengal's politics will be a different ball-game altogether.