Mamata has been rattled by the electoral setback to such an extent that she can no longer distinguish between right and wrong.
Mamata Banerjee is not the first politician to have suffered an electoral setback, nor will she be the last. And yet, perhaps no leader before her has behaved in the irresponsible and undignified manner she has, after the defeat. Even Left leaders, who otherwise share many traits of the West Bengal Chief Minister — intolerance towards political adversaries, minority appeasement, and a penchant to settle political scores through violence — were relatively restrained after their defeats in West Bengal and Tripura after decades of uninterrupted rule.
Elections losses come and go but the image a politician presents in times of adversity is not more long-lasting but provides a template for his or her future course in politics. The West Bengal Chief Minister has only added to the ignominy of defeat by her shocking conduct, the latest example of which became evident in the manner she handled the doctors’ strike in parts of her State. This comes on the heels of a spate of revenge attacks by goons owing allegiance to her ruling Trinamool Congress, on workers of the BJP, the party which rode high in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the State, winning 18 (it had just two in 2014) of the 42 seats.
The BJP poses a different scenario. The party has made deep inroads in the State and having won a good number of Lok Sabha seats it is in a pole position to disrupt Mamata Banerjee’s hegemonist rule.
The Chief Minister should have been at her humblest in the aftermath of the defeat, but she decided to be even more belligerent than before. She levelled wild allegations against the striking doctors when she ought to have taken serious note of the murderous assault on them by a mob of goons and sided with the doctors. She called them “outsiders” and “goons” and said they were free to quit and leave their official premises. Most irresponsibly, she said the doctors were denying treatment to members of one particular community (the minorities). At the time of writing, she had failed to even visit one of the doctors who had been grievously injured and was in the intensive care unit.
The West Bengal Chief Minister is squarely responsible for the crisis that has gripped the State’s healthcare system. When the incident occurred and the doctors expressed their protest, all that she had to do was to reach out to them immediately, visit the doctors assaulted, ordered the arrest of all those who were involved in the incident and assured the medical staff all security. There would have been no strike and lakhs of patients would not have been inconvenienced. But she placed her ego before the interests of the State and its people. Incidentally, while addressing the minority community recently, she had told its members that she was with them and that those who confronted them would be destroyed. Surely, she could have demonstrated a similar harmony with the striking doctors.
Her irresponsible behaviour expands into other areas as well. During the election campaigning, she had refused to take a call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with a natural calamity; saying that she did not want to speak with a Prime Minister with “an expiry date”. More recently, she refused to attend a meeting of the Niti Aayog.
Mamata Banerjee has often spoken of the need to respect the federal nature of the Indian Union, and yet she has been in the forefront of making a mockery of the same. She ridicules the advisory sent by the Union Home Ministry on the political killings, saying that law and order is a matter for the State to handle. While that is true, the Union Government is well within its right to issue an advisory and the State regime ought to respond responsibly to it. Besides, since law and order is a State subject, she has specularly failed to maintain it. She cannot run away from accountability by claiming that the BJP and the RSS are behind the violence.
It is evident that Mamata Banerjee has lost the plot. The more she is faced with challenges, the greater is her irresponsible conduct. She has been rattled by the electoral setback to such an extent that she can no longer distinguish between right and wrong. Her political instincts have begun to fail her. It’s not only her prime ministerial ambitions that have been ground to dust; she now faces a real prospect of having to struggle to save her government in the coming Assembly elections. For the first time since she assumed power, she will have to confront a real political challenge. Until now, she could easily brush aside the Congress and the Left, because both are spent forces in the State. The BJP poses a different scenario. The party has made deep inroads in the State and having won a good number of Lok Sabha seats it is in a pole position to disrupt Mamata Banerjee’s hegemonist rule. If she continues with her present behaviour, a shock could await her in the State polls.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.