Main this bitter political feud from the entrance is none aside from Mamata Banerjee herself.
Bhoy Peyechhe Mamata. Mamata Daha Fail. Mithyebadi BJP. TMC Chhi.
If all that is sounding “hocus pocus” to you, recommend you log in once more. Or higher nonetheless, give a shout out to your Bengali buddy.
Over the past two months, ever because the dreaded novel coronavirus determined to announce its arrival in Kolkata on 17 March to be exact, these expressions have change into intrinsic to the extremely vitriolic polity of West Bengal. Be it the BJP or the TMC, nobody goes to mattress nowadays earlier than ensuring these hashtags are preferred, tweeted and re-tweeted over and once more by lots of and 1000’s of handles to make them pattern on social media platforms.
By no means thoughts the worldwide pandemic, which has crippled nations worldwide, by no means thoughts the highway to restoration spelt out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus bundle being spelt out by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to rev up the Indian financial system, by no means thoughts the Shramik Particular trains being run by the Railway Ministry or particular fights being organized to convey again stranded Indians as part of Vande Bharat Mission or particular ships being despatched to international shores to get our personal again residence, it’s politics first in West Bengal.
And main this bitter political feud from the entrance is none aside from Mamata Banerjee. Who, as those that have watched her from shut quarters say, is seeing this as a golden alternative to “expose” the BJP, consolidate her core minority vote base, go all weapons blazing in opposition to BJP’s “communal designs” within the run-up to what guarantees to be the mom of all state elections subsequent yr—the Bengal elections.
Avenue fighter Didi is out on the streets as soon as once more and is firing from all cylinders on the BJP, fairly not like what different non-BJP Chief Ministers together with Captain Amarinder Singh, Arvind Kejriwal or Naveen Patnaik are resorting to in these making an attempt instances.
Armed with masks and marking social distancing rings on the highway, Didi, as suggested by her picture strategists, is making an attempt her finest to bolster her individuals join. However the issue is, whereas she is out on the streets with a brush in hand to clear the mud, she is being accused by the BJP and even the Left and Congress of brushing underneath the carpet the actual Covid-19 numbers, misreporting info, downplaying demise figures and enjoying up co-morbidities of deceased sufferers to stamp her level.
Any query which doesn’t fairly determine in her political script is met with a censure or dismissed as a “communal query”. A working example is her response to a query requested by a journalist on the Tablighi Jamaat occasion held at Nizamuddin in Delhi which led to an exponential rise within the variety of contaminated circumstances. Whereas the Centre harped on figuring out the occasion contributors, check and isolate them and perform aggressive contact tracing, Didi labored additional time to make sure the minorities—who have been put underneath scanner if a Tablighi hyperlink emerged—could possibly be whisked away from the general public eye. Her lieutenants together with MPs and MLAs went all out, accusing the BJP of spreading the “communal virus”. The actual fact that suppression of essential info may have disastrous outcomes by placing lives in danger, hardly mattered. What mattered was the practically one-third minority vote financial institution of Bengal who she felt wouldn’t let her down throughout polls.
Armed with floor studies—which nonetheless many within the TMC camp dub as pretend—and laborious info, BJP is losing no time in cornering Didi. The truth that Bengal’s Covid-19 mortality charge is presumably the very best within the nation and approach above the nationwide indices can’t be ignored, however all this began coming to the fore solely after the Centre, which Mamata has accused time and again of breaking the federal construction by taking unilateral selections, despatched down an Inter Ministerial Central Workforce (IMCT) for a floor test just a few days in the past, solely to be met and greeted with royal ignore.
From the best way she went in opposition to the Centre and interlinked the pandemic containment measures as a way to deflect consideration from the Delhi riots to giving directions to the police to make sure there have been no excesses, which many say is geared toward defending one specific neighborhood, Mamata’s actions have been underneath BJP’s scanner. Weak surveillance, underreporting numbers, negligible monitoring, crumbling well being infrastructure, SOS letters by medical doctors working around the clock and a deluge of complaints coming in from sufferers and relations armed the BJP with plain proof.
Movies of ambulances arriving in entrance of hospital morgues to whisk off lifeless our bodies have solely added to Mamata’s sleepless nights. With Bengal demanding solutions and journalists elevating questions, Didi is presumably combating a battle like by no means earlier than. She might have banned cellphones in hospitals for “worry of getting uncovered additional’, as BJP says, however Didi for positive is underneath fixed assault.
And Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, who has spoken out in favour of liberating the “PDS from the political cage”, has made a number of overtures to the Chief Minister, reminding her of her Constitutional obligations. Beneath fixed assault from Didi’s MPs, Derek O’Brien and Mohua Moitra, the Governor has nonetheless minced no phrases to show the Covid-19 mismanagement in West Bengal. Urging Mamata to bury the hatchet, Dhankar has additionally urged the Chief Minister, who can also be the Dwelling Minister of the state, to make sure administration and police act with none political overtones whereas coping with studies of communal violence coming in from Telenipara in Hooghly and Chandipur in Malda. Sadly, Didi has stonewalled all his efforts and given full leeway to her leaders to tarnish the Raj Bhavan and dub it as an extension of the BJP workplace.
Taking part in the sufferer card in her assembly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mamata has questioned as to why the BJP authorities has taken a step-motherly stand vis-a-vis Bengal. Her ministers have gone hammer and tongs to say how Bengal has been omitted of Vande Bharat Mission’s aviation map and the way the Railways Ministry has put brakes on operating Shramik Particular trains to convey again migrant staff to the state. The very fact is, whereas Railway Minister Piyush Goyal says to take migrant staff again to Bengal, not less than 100 trains have to run every single day, Didi has given nod to run simply 105 trains unfold over 30 days. Additionally, the very fact is Ministry of Exterior Affairs has clarified that flights to Kolkata shall be facilitated if authorities confirms preparations, prompting one other spherical of caustic diatribe.
By limiting the free motion of BJP MPs to attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Dwelling Minister Amit Shah and firing missiles at Governor Dhankar to cowl up for her authorities’s failings, Mamata is just ending up placing herself underneath the microscope each single second. For the BJP, the ballot bugle is buzzing loud and clear. The necessity of the hour is to combat the pandemic and lay naked the info and drive the federal government to reply. If preparations could possibly be made to get again pilgrims from Ajmer Sharif, why not prepare for trains for getting again stranded migrant staff?
For the BJP, which faces the “Mamata vs Who” query each single day, the necessity of the hour is to select up the free threads and be part of the dots. Has the novel coronavirus then taken centre stage in Bengal’s dramatic political pulpit? Solely time will inform.
Sourav Sanyal is a senior journalist and political commentator.