It has come now and will try hard to take a shape – Mamata Banerjee has blown the conch shell, clear, loud and wide while all opposition looked on hearing and try feeling and measuring the velocity of the echo of that sound. None has so far declared it so clearly and entire opposition is seemingly in deep thought mode instead. Political analysts may tend to compare the decades ago attractive slogan of ‘Congress Hatao’ with Mamata’s now ‘Khela Hobe, till BJP is removed from the center’. Recent maneuvering by Prashant Kishor has made many senior opposition leaders tempted to hit gym for refreshed make over.
The selection of the day and date (commemoration of ‘Shaheed Diwas’) for such declaration is also significant – on 21 st July in 1993, Mamata, the then firebrand uncompromising young leader, led a huge Youth Congress rally attempting to storm the Writers’ Building, the then state secretariate, when thirteen youth succumbed to police bullets of Jyoti Basu’s communist govt.
The incident brought in mercurial rise of her fame bringing her to the front bench of opposition politics of West Bengal politics. Mamata’s message – telecast across many states of the country including UP – on the day might very well stir the conscience of many of older Congress leaders, spread across political affiliations as on the date.
Was it the right time to declare the intent? Is Mamata the right leader to declare the war? Was there a mandate to Mamata to come in front? Does she possess the required legitimacy? Or is Mamata becoming impatient?
One, resounding victory in her state and the manner it has been interpreted, explained and seen by various quarters across the country have stimulated the national aspirations of each of the opposition parties. Mamata feels her stature has outgrown her state and a prominent national role for her is seen on the horizon. If she does not grab the opportunity apparently knocking her door, others may grab it and she would be left to follow the stream. She must be feeling she is better placed than any of the regional satraps and there are no visible national leaders who could stand before her.
Two, Sharad Chandra Pawar and his NCP was found fumbling without any sharp focus. Even after Sharad Chandra Pawar held the preparatory meet for opposition unity he as well as his NCP fell short of even going public about the actual intent of the meet. None of other leaders too was taking any initiative that was visible to the people. She feels that the iron is hot and a hammer is needed just now keeping the atmosphere warm engaging the people continuously to elections.
She explicitly asserted that no purpose would be served if a ‘doctor is called when a patient is already died’ – indicating towards the lacking efforts of opposition unity before 2019 polls.
Three, her Congress counter parts in Punjab and Rajasthan are busy fighting their fierce battles for their own respective spaces, quite incapable and unable, at least presently, to contribute to the ‘national cause’. There are no encouraging signs from the Congress High Command either. In any case, she feels Congress incapacitated to lead and thus may be given the supportive space in due course when she catches momentum.
Four, Mamata too is a seasoned politician, having crafted her own way based on her sole wisdom and belief of politics and has achieved landmark achievements in her career so far without compromising her tone, tenor and temperament whatever they are. She knows she would not be acceptable to many in the opposition for obvious reasons. She, therefore, has decided to take the risk where she would not be losing anything and has the chance to gain the bumper prize. She intends to create a situation where accepting her leadership might become a fait accompli for the entire opposition spectrum.
Five, she has already made almost all the opposition leaders across parties to watch and hear her speech along with large section of people across the country including people at the Prime Minister’s constituency. Assembly elections are lined up leading to general elections but still there is huge time ahead. She may embark upon crisscross the country, more particularly the states going to polls and address people. She very well also intends to engage herself in intense campaigning for the opposition in the states. This, she feels, would enhance her stature further becoming a focal point of opposition unity and a natural leader of the combine.
Six, the ongoing session of parliament and the Pegasus Spyware controversy poked her hard to come out without losing any further time. She feels she could blow the issue out making it a subject of national debate against Modi dispensation. She spoke provocatively about this and wishes the issue to rock the parliament and stir conscience of people at large.
But then, she might be reading and feeling the situation too much in the hyper positive side of it.
The atmosphere may not be that mature for the opposition unity as she perceives and the purported unity might not be that forthcoming as she foresees:
One, when the ‘Congress Hatao’ idea was conceived post-Nehru basically by the then socialists, there were too many leaders in opposition camp, many taller in merit, caliber, courage and also in public credibility and perception. There were hotter topics against Congress establishment including hard issues of continual hunger, poverty and unemployment, let alone soft conceptual issues. Still, it was not before 1977 that Congress could be taken to task that too with a leader of the stature of JP to steer the change. The country neither have that ripe situation nor the leaders of such credibility and repute.
Two, 1977 was still a failed experiment and so was many govts with many compromised Prime Ministers in between, till emergence of UPA and NDA. The country saw with amusement and dismay these experiments losing many years and costing premature untimely elections. Ultimately, it was only the established national party led coalitions – Congress leading UPA and BJP leading NDA – that could provide stable and credible govts.
Three, mandate of West Bengal, howsoever massive it may be, is not a mandate to lead the country. Repeated elections have proved that voters do understand and differentiate well between a general and state election. Mamata is not making any record of being a successive third time Chief Minister. Her own state had a much more respected Chief Minister for twenty-three years with successive massive mandates.
Four, not even a single opposition party except her own is going to accept Mamata as the leader of a combined opposition, given her erratic, temperamental and unstable style of functioning. Her own party colleagues often go on bearing her. She never commanded the respect, the acceptability and the honor to proceed ahead with diverse, rather contradictory, ideologies and more ambitious colleagues.
Five, a sum total of many regional parties definitely does not make a national party. A national party would always be required to provide the leadership of any large congregation of heterogeneous parties. Any regional leader would lack the national appeal and also the national outlook. Mamata did have her good share of national roles – both as a Congress leader as well as NDA partner – but she failed to make a national mark for herself.
Everything said, believed and felt, the hard fact still remains that BJP as the party and Narendra Modi as the leader continue to have the unparallel appeal, support and acceptability of the people. The present stage of opposition would require years to prepare and come up to compete. After all, it took years to dislodge Congress from the center. Mamata will have to gather much of patience to assemble to fight.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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