Mamata Banerjee has one foot in West Bengal, the other in New Delhi, giving her all to cobble a Third Front which is a resurrection that always fails at the box office of the people’s theatre. The only two occasions when the Third Front got front stage it failed because the curtain fell too early – on thespians Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, who turned out not tragic heroes but hopeless zeroes. A report, for Different Truths.
Whoever said Mamata Banerjee is a one-god person can eat their words with bhaat and fish curry. The ‘appeasement-Chief Minister’ of West Bengal and Trinamool Congress boss is no less a Ram-bhakt than a Babul Supriyo or a Dilip Ghosh. And in the true spirit of the believed-to-be non-violent Hindu, Mamata has something against the Hindu wielding arms, even if it is Lord Ram’s favourite, the bow, and arrow, the one which the Son of Dashrath lifted to string an arrow to claim Sita for his bride. ‘Didi’ has given pride of place to the bow and arrow by including them in the ambit of the Arms Act, 1959, illegal to carry and non-bailable a crime.
Ram Navami this year reverberated and resonated from the unlikeliest of states – West Bengal where Durga rules and Kali claims, and if Mamata cannot be Durga because that title goes to the one and only Indira Gandhi, ‘Didi’ is definitely the avenging Kali to ideologies that do not cotton to hers or she to them. The ‘Left’ owe their near decimation in West Bengal to Didi besting them in intimidation tactics they excelled in. It is telling that these days of Ram Navami strife the Left are nowhere in the picture – serves them right for being godless.
Mamata’s attention is, however, divided. She has one foot in West Bengal, the other in New Delhi, giving her all to cobble a Third Front which is a resurrection that always fails at the box office of the people’s theatre. The only two occasions when the Third Front got front stage it failed because the curtain fell too early – on thespians Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, who turned out not tragic heroes but hopeless zeroes. Mamata Banerjee sees in today’s cries for a Third Front a third chance to break free and become a prime number with the strength of more than a single digit.
But in Mamata’s more-than-one there is no place for the Congress unless the Grand Old Party subtracts Rahul Gandhi. Mamata more than anyone else understands that to tie the Third Front bandwagon to Rahul Gandhi’s wagon will make it difficult for the Third Front to stay in tune. And wasn’t it Mamata who buried the Congress in West Bengal, why should she be the one to help resurrect it at the Centre? So, while meeting everybody from TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu to RJD’s Misa Bharati, Mamata did not take the detour to 10, Janpath on March 27. She was scheduled to do it on March 28 to meet Sonia Gandhi. But, clearly, Rahul Gandhi is another Ram she prefers not to weaponise. So, whichever finger to the Congress integer. Meanwhile, the BJP wants to do a Mamata to the Trinamool in West Bengal. The saffron party’s Tripura victory has rattled Mamata. She knows the BJP’s next target is West Bengal – 86 percent of West Bengal can be counted as loosely-Hindu. Tripura was also overwhelmingly loosely-Hindu and Tripura voted BJP. Tripura was also considerably Bengali and Tripura voted BJP. The signs are not hard to miss. Mamata faces a challenge. It is Trinamool’s intimidation versus BJP’s intimidation, a return to the basics. Mamata picked up the basics from the Left parties and it seems the BJP and the RSS have picked up the basics from the Trinamool.
Mamata’s Third Front formula of ‘backing the strongest regional party in each state against the BJP’ works in Trinamool’s favour in West Bengal. But what about the other states? Andhra Pradesh has two regional parties – TDP and YSRCP, both vying for supremacy; back one and the other will ditch ship. Karnataka has the JD (S) but the two big players are the Congress and BJP and both are out of favour with Mamata. Kerala’s regional parties are co-opted with the two fronts UDF and LDF. Odisha’s BJD nobody wants to be saddled with and Delhi’s AAP is in the gutters. Tamil Nadu is a clutter of regional parties with actors in hero-anti-hero roles. Bihar’s regional parties, the RJD and JD (U) are at loggerhead. And in Uttar Pradesh, which of the two regional parties, SP and BSP, is the stronger to fit Mamata’s formula? All in all a masala mix that would beat Bollywood masala hands down but still come-a-flopper!
Mamata Banerjee for all her Third Front ambitions and machinations will have to return to West Bengal. New Delhi is not her base, Kolkata is where she can talk the language of intimidation. Sunday’s Ram Navami violence has spilled over into the weekdays. Overnight there has been violence in Raniganj and Asansol where a curfew has been imposed. Security forces are engaged in an area domination exercise and the media is asking the stupid question, “Who actually allowed the violence to take place?” and the other, “What is Mamata Banerjee doing in New Delhi when West Bengal is burning?”
Some media calls the situation in West Bengal as “this religion-induced social engineering” out of which Banerjee cannot step out. Trinamool MLAs and MPs are facing opposing political and religious compulsions. They cannot leave it to the BJP to “grab the issue”. So, they themselves are taking part in Ram Navami celebrations. And where Ram goes, can Hanuman stay far behind? Lord Ram’s most trusted sidekick’s Navami falls on Saturday and the state’s politicians – right and left and Trinamool – are in full preparation to mark the day with maces and chariots. In West Bengal, it is a do-or-die battle and whoever gets hold of Hanuman’s life-giving Sanjeevni Bhooti will survive.
Photo from the Internet