Mamata Banerjee is ahead in the West Bengal panchayat elections. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is looking for a sweep across the state and it is very likely that the ruling party will hit out at all 'conspirators', including the opposition, state election commission and the media, proudly claiming that all effort to malign the image of its government has failed.
The question is: How the TMC managed to come out with flying colours even as West Bengal continues to witness a gloomy phase over the last two years? Is all outrage against Banerjee a bias and she deserves a balanced appraisal?
This issue requires a basic understanding. Mamata Banerjee's victory is facilitated by a political stagnation which has gripped West Bengal. Stagnation in other socio-economic sectors has made the urban classes disenchanted with the TMC supremo just two years since she came to power, but as far as the rural and semi-urban voter is concerned, it is still Banerjee who is favoured before anybody else.
Why Mamata gets this favour?
We often say that Banerjee has made a mess in two years, but what we fail to notice is that the two years are actually seen in comparison with 34 years of the Left rule or misrule. According to one survey, while 39 per cent of the urban classes of the state feel the government of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was better than 37 per cent who back Banerjee's regime, the proportion is 39 per cent to 29 per cent in favour of Banerjee among the rural electorate.
This shows that no matter how much Banerjee abuses opposition or labels questioning individuals as Maoists, she will enjoy a honeymoon period throughout her five-year-old stay in office and is also likely to come back to power again in 2016, when Bengal goes to the assembly polls.
Left Front memories haunt rural Bengal
The dark memory of the Left Front days when the countrysides in Bengal were stifled to the extreme haunts the electors and they do not intend to go back to those days. A 'lunatic' Banerjee is better, they feel. This has, while on the one hand, caused the Left's base perish in rural Bengal, has strengthened the TMC's grip.
The dominant groups have altered their loyalty and with empowerment of individuals still a distant thing to happen, the group backing has made the TMC a strong force, no matter what happens at the top. Political survival has become a priority over economic misery. Rural and semi-urban West Bengal have kept faith on this arrangement and the ruling class has happily replicated its predecessor's model, although somewhat less successfully.
How long will this continue?
Not indefinitely for sure but for sometime. The real parivartan (change) in West Bengal is expected to be seen in the post-2016 and definitely in the post-2021 polls. Till then, Mamata Banerjee is going to enjoy her 'good time' in politics, not only in the state but also at the national stage. Mamata Banerjee should be grateful to her stars that it is the Left which she has got her as her main opposition.
Why will this continue?
The reason is: there is very little chance of the Left Front regaining prominence. The leadership is in decline and it is not easy to emerge as a leftist mass leader in today's times, more so in India. The aged party will struggle to survive few years down the lane, leave aside confronting the opponents. It has failed to capitalise on any of the issues that have put the Mamata Banerjee government in a spot apart from giving inconsequential media bytes.
As it took three decades to topple the Left, it might take fifty years for it to reach a position to come back to power. Till then, it's Mamata and the others who will make the most of the vacuum created by the Left's departure.
What lies ahead for Mamata and Bengal?
An inevitable fracturing of the bipolar polity in Bengal. With Left falling apart and Banerjee too looking incapable of delivering (the situation in West Bengal is likely to implode post-2016 with the increasing setbacks on the economic front), it will gradually lead towards third and fourth parties to gain a strong feet in the state.
The Congress is divided into multiple camps in the state and is unlikely to see a unified leadership in the state and that leaves the BJP, the party with the minimum existence in the state, much to gain in West Bengal.
Moreover, once the polity undergoes more fracture and if indeed a 'social revolution' takes place in rural Bengal where it has been either red or green so far, then it would lead to even further democratisation in the state politics. We can't predict who is going to call the shots at the moment.
But the trend is clear. For those who believe that Mamata Banerjee has brought a parivartan, they need to be a bit corrected. Mamata has started off the parivartan but won't be there till the last episodes are played out. Till then, we all can lay back and watch the proceedings.