The errors Mamata is making in her Bengal poll campaign

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·5 min read

The injury to Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram and the politics around it has taken centre stage in Bengal elections. As the Phase 1 polling day approaches, the poll fever is catching up in the state.

As per Crowdwisdom360’s poll of polls, the Trinamool Congress is likely to emerge as the single largest party and could fall just a few seats short of majority with 142 seats.

Despite the initial polls favouring TMC, Didi’s actions over the past few days show signs of nervousness.

So what is Didi seeing on the ground which pollsters are missing? There is massive anti-incumbency on the ground, as per a report by People Pulse.

Mamata, cognizant of the fact, thus denied tickets to 64 sitting MLAs. Only 9 out of 36 state governments since 2014 have been able to retain power.

What are the mistakes Mamata is committing in her campaign?

Mamata is adopting a soft Hindutva approach, just like Rahul Gandhi did before the 2019 general elections and we all know how miserably the Congress’s attempt failed. The original always sells more than the copy.

The TMC wishes to drive home the point that the Bharatiya Janata Party is not the thekedaar of Hindutva. In a highly polarised election, the Hindus cannot be ignored as they make up 70% of the population in the state.

TMC believes it is a low-risk strategy as the minority community do not have much choice.

The party feels minorities will anyways vote for the TMC as it is in the best position to prevent the BJP from coming to power. The fear of CAA/NRC will work in Mamata’s favour.

The party has given tickets to 42 Muslim candidates, but this is much lower than what their proportion of population warrants. It needs to be wary of parties like the Indian Secular Front (ISF) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which have raised the poor minority representation in the so called secular parties and have been gaining traction. Any significant split of votes could damage the TMC’s prospects.

On the one hand, the party is running an insider versus outsider campaign, and on the other hand, Mamata has started giving some of her speeches in Hindi.

This is an effort to reach out to the Hindi-speaking population. Day in and out, national news channels are running programs on the West Bengal polls.

TMC strategists feel that the BJP is pushing its narrative with the help of these channels and it is necessary to counter that. The national media narrative does have a rub-off effect on a section of voters.

However, majority voters in Bengal watch regional channels and read regional papers. This sort of coverage won’t help the TMC much in the campaign and is counter intuitive to the regional nationalism card being played by Mamata.

Mamata who has opposed ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants/sloganeering in the past, as recently as in the event to commemorate Netaji’s birth anniversary, is now reciting ‘Chandi paath’ in Nandigram.

In a bid to counter the BJP's allegation of Muslim appeasement by her government, Mamata Banerjee said, "I am a Hindu girl, too. Don't play the Hindu card with me. Tell me, do you know how to be a good Hindu? I do Chandi paath before stepping out every day.”

Mamata, like Rahul in Gujarat, is on a temple spree in the state. She visited as many as 19 temples and one Muslim shrine in the Nandigram constituency over the last two days of her tour, before she returned to Kolkata with an injured foot.

She also chose the auspicious festival of Shivaratri to file her nomination papers.

In trying to ape the BJP and shrug off the minority appeasement attack, Mamata is losing her original identity — that of a street fighter championing the cause of the poor and the downtrodden, that of a ‘secular’ leader who stands for the spirit of the Constitution.

Mamata has launched a personal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and is reacting to each and every charge of the BJP.

Not to say that Modi has spared Didi, but that is a trap which BJP is laying for the TMC, and the latter is falling for it.

In one of the rallies, Didi thundered, “Two persons are running the country. One is Ravan and another is a Danav (monster).” In another she said the country knows about only one syndicate, that of Modi and Shah.

Mamata should learn from Kejriwal’s campaign in Delhi. He refrained from attacking the duo and speaking on controversial bills; rather, he targeted the local BJP’s leadership bankruptcy and focussed on his development agenda.

The more you target Modi, the stronger he becomes.

The latest error is the politicisation of the injury to Mamata in Nandigram. The initial investigation shows it was an accident and not an attack. This could backfire on the TMC and the party should refrain from pushing it further.

The elections in West Bengal is a long-drawn, eight-phase affair and the TMC should play to its strengths and attack rather than defend.

The acts mentioned above show signs of nervousness on the part of Mamata. Will the TMC come back with a thumping majority or will the BJP install its first-ever government in the state? Only time will tell….

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