Mamata’s Prime Ministerial Dreams
Within few hours of the Election Commission declaring the poll dates on March 5, 2014, in Bengal, both the Trinamool Congress and the Left Front came out with their candidate lists. Out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, Mamata declared her candidates from all the seats so did the Left Front.
The Trinamool Congress candidate list reflected mostly stars of their respective fields, whereas the Left Front with its usual leaders inducted some new names but more or less it was same. The Trinamool Congress star list of candidates includes Tollywood heartthrob Dev (Dipak Adhikary), the glamorous Moon Moon Sen, veteran actress Sandhya Roy, thespian Arpita Ghosh, ace footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, singers Indranil Sen and Soumitra Roy (of Bangla band Bhumi). However, the party’s present list of MPs also has representatives from art, culture, sports and politics. For Party supremo Mamata Banerjee, it is her idea of equal representation of people from all sections of society.
Moon Moon will take on CPM veteran Basudeb Acharya in Bankura in the sweltering heat of May, while Dev will use his star power to wrest Ghatal from CPI’s Santosh Rana, who has replaced party veteran Gurudas Dasgupta. Mamata wants to make inroads into the youth in the Darjeeling Hills and Siliguri with Bhaichung Bhutia. The ace footballer, it is expected, will to an extent offset Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s influence in the Hills and corner CPM’s Saman Pathak in the plains of Siliguri. On the other hand, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is supporting BJP candidates in North Bengal.
Not only in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress and the ruling Left Front in Tripura have announced their party candidates for the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Tripura, where elections would be held on April 7 and 12 respectively. For the first time, the Trinamool Congress has announced that former Congress Minister and Chairman of the Tripura unit of TMC, Ratan Chakraborty would contest from Tripura West constituency and Bhriguram Reang, a former leader of opposition Congress, would contest from Tripura East constituency for Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, convener of the Left Front and sitting MP Khagen Das declared, “State Industries and Commerce Minister Jitendra Chowdhuri will contest from the Tripura (East) ST constituency and Shankar Prasad Dutta, former MLA, will contest from the Tripura (West) constituency.” He also said: “We have selected new faces because I am 76 and suffering from some old-age problems and Bajuban Reang, MP from East Tripura constituency, is also above 70 years and is facing the same problem.” The opposition Congress and the BJP are yet to announce their candidates for the fray. A total of 23,83,146 voters will exercise their franchise in the general elections from Tripura.
According to sources, the Trinamool Congress, which has declared its intent to step out of West Bengal’s boundaries for the coming Lok Sabha polls besides West Bengal, will contest the polls in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and also for all seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi. It is learnt that Mamata Banerjee’s new-found mentor social activist Anna Hazare is behind advising her to field candidates in Delhi.
Few days back, Anna Hazare at a joint conference with West Bengal Chief Minister said that he would be supporting Banerjee and her TMC candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. The idea behind contesting all the Delhi seats is being seen as Hazare’s attempt to get back at his erstwhile disciple Arvind Kejriwal, who has now parted ways with Hazare and floated the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which put up a spectacular fight in the Delhi assembly polls, winning 28 of the 70 assembly seats there. While Banerjee has aligned with Hazare to get herself a national profile, it is the TMC’s platform that Hazare seems to be using to hit out at Kejriwal, who is also working on putting out candidates in different parts of the country alongside focussing on Delhi.
Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee says Narendra Modi is ‘communal’, won’t support him for Prime Minister, even if post-poll scenario demands so. Also she is confident that the BJP would not come to power in the Lok Sabha polls in which her party Trinamool Congress would emerge as the third largest party in the country. She says she is prepared to work with AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa or BSP supremo Mayawati, but not with Narendra Modi, which is a clear indication that she is not supporting the BJP. As of now, one thing is clear that Mamata Banerjee is not going to support the Congress-led UPA, the BJP-led NDA and the Left-led Third Front.
Mamata Banerjee, has also contended: “The Congress is not the alternative to the BJP and the BJP is not the alternative to the Congress.” Hitting out at the Congress, with which she had an alliance till about two years ago, she said, “People are tired of corruption. People are tired of dynasty.” She also targeted the BJP, saying, “People are tired of parties that encourage riots.” On the other hand, taking on Modi’s Gujarat model, Mamata Banerjee said Bengal model is better than Modi’s Gujarat model. Gujarat has had sustained development without facing any problems while West Bengal “had to rise from bottom upwards” as it had been “ruined for over 34 years by the Communists”, said Mamata Banerjee. “My state now has a PPP policy, an IT policy, a textile policy. We have done more in last 34 months than what the Communists have done in 34 years,” she maintained. These schemes, she said, could be replicated by other states for their betterment. Mamata further said that before she came to power, the work culture in her state had been ruined. “When my government took over, half the man days lost in India were from Bengal. Between 2008 and 2011, 70 lakh man days were lost through strikes. We brought that figure down to 5,200. And this year it is nil.”
“Compared to this, states like Gujarat have always had a good work culture. But we have had to change the full attitude. So before you start comparing Bengal to other states, it is important to understand this. We have done all this in a very short period of time and that is why people are putting their faith in us, election after election,” Mamata Banerjee said. She also brushed aside the Third Front, being propagated by the Left, as ‘a tea party’. Third Front is unviable ‘tired front’. “CPI (M) is the most opportunist party; they cannot take the lead. This is just a tea party,” Banerjee, who vanquished the CPI (M)-led Left Front in 2011 Assembly elections, said. Asked whether she was not criticising Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to keep options open, Banerjee said, “He is a junior person. I will not answer any personal question. Ask about the party.”
Mamata Banerjee, who has already denied any alliance with the BJP, the Congress or the Third Front, is believed to be thinking ahead of time, as the planning and equation benefitting her party are always there in her mind. A day after the Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee indicated in a television interview that she is open to working with Jayalalithaa; the AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa telephoned her the very next day and was stated to have discussed the upcoming general elections. This shows Mamata is open and is not denying the fact that there could be a federal front too and also it is evident when she says, “Any Front of significance (including Trinamool) will only come together after the results are announced… We are hopeful that a Federal Front government will lead this nation.” From fielding star candidates to finding political mentor in anti-corruption social activist Anna Hazare and also not taking the side of UPA, NDA and Third Front is a clear indication that the fire-brand leader Mamata Banerjee has high dreams and national ambitions, which she doesn’t want to dilute, as she says, “Please wait and see. After the election results, it will be decided.”
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata