Whether her party's leaders have indeed taken money in the Saradha scam or for helping set up a firm as has been shown in a sting operation footage conducted by Narada News is something for law to find out but as far as perception in concerned, Trinamool Congress (TMC) Mamata Banerjee knows very well that a big damage has been done.
The maverick leader who never compromised in her long career in politics, is being seen speaking in a tone which is alien to the audience. Banerjee, who blamed the previous Left Front government for whatever bad happened during her party's rule, including the recent flyover disaster, has now taken a U-turn.
Mamata's moments of self-criticism: A rare sight in politics
On Wednesday, Banerjee said in a rally in Kulti in Burdwan district which will go to polling on April 11 that all the responsibility lies with her. "Blame me if I have done anything wrong but please don't leave us. Else, it will be difficult for me," the leader said. In another rally in the same district, she said: "Humans make error and they should be given a second chance. I will not say that I know everything."
"Those who gave money are also guilty": Did Mamata just validate teh charges against TMC?
The TMC supremo is also being seen going on a defensive mode on the recent sting operation. At a rally in Durgapur, she said those who are giving money are also guilty. So if giving money is wrong, what about taking it? Did Mamata Banerjee just validate the Opposition's charges about her party leaders accepting bribe?
"Slap the candidate if you are angry but vote for him"
In Durgapur, Mamata Banerjee urged the people to vote for TMC candidate from Durgapur West Apurba Mukherjee, who is also the mayor of the steel city. She even went to the extent of asking the people to "slap" the candidate if they have become angry with him but still vote for him! For a leader of the stature of Mamata Banerjee, this is unprecedented.
Experts say the Opposition's decision to field Bishwanath Pariyal, who was once a close aide of Mukherjee, against him has put the TMC top brass under a lot of pressure. She even indirectly targeted Pariyal, once her colleague in the party, by asking the voters not to invite trouble.
In Durgapur East constituency, too, the TMC's decision to field Pradip Kumar Majumdar has caused disappointment among some sections of the party who want last time winner Dr Nikhil Kumar Banerjee back.
TMC supremo, who often said her govt completed all work, is under tremendous pressure now
As per reports, the alliance between the Congress and Left is not much behind the TMC in the industrial belt of Burdwan and the TMC supremo is making desperate appeals out of pressure. The TMC-Congress alliance had won 16 out of 25 seats in Burdwan district while the Left bagged nine. But things have changed a lot in the last five years and the Left has every possibility of regaining this district, where it had dominated once.
Mamata Banerjee's party looks in a shambles at the moment, thanks to a series of incidents that have put it under a serious challenge at a crucial time. The alliance between the Left and Congress is a headache in itself for it makes the vote-share almost equally split between the ruling party and the Opposition.
And now, the release of footage of a sting operation, the collapse of a flyover and uncomforable remarks from senior TMC leaders about the syndicate have posed a serious threat to the TMC supremo. She is finding it difficult to cash in on her clean image, an asset which has helped her survive the tests of politics over the years.
The Opposition is, however, not convinced with the chief minister's changed tone. Its leaders feel it is just a strategy in an area where the TMC is facing a tough challenge. One section of observers feel she might return to her normal being while campaigning in places where the TMC is the only politica alternative.
"I am the candidate in all 294 seats": Is Mamata in danger of losing her grassroots contact?
But whatever be the reason, that Mamata Banerjee has toned down her voice in even a few rallies speaks volumes about the hidden current in the state's politics now. Her desperate remark that she herself is the candidate in all 294 seats shows the danger that the mass leader faces about losing her contact with the grassroots, thanks to the growing allegations against a number of TMC leaders.
Mamata Banerjee still is the favourite to win this Assembly election. But if the vote-share remains closely split between the TMC and the Opposition and the alliance succeeds in working together for the next five years, we may see the uncompromising leader taking a lot of turns un the near future that once seemed impossible.