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9 May, 2021 11:31:57 AM
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DATELINE INDIA: Didi triuphant in West Benga

KUMKUM CHADHA
DATELINE INDIA: Didi triuphant in West Benga

Move over dada…didi is the new dada… The reference is to cricket “god” Sachin Tendulkar who is the universal dada, brother,  more so among the people of Bengal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s hat trick of retaining the state for the third time has won hearts in her home state. Her spectacular win, apart from giving her a high, has shown her up as someone who can not only fight battles but win a war too. Hence the new nomenclature of being a dada,in the real sense of the term.

In the present context, dada has a different connotation: the  simple one being a brother, the honorific used for Bengal’s very own Tendulkar. But the way things have panned out it seems he would have to make way for didi, read Mamata Banerjee to be the new dada.

Yet it is not enough for the honorific to change. It is the power it brings with it. For in Mamata’s case, it is not the sentiment of the word that is applicable; nor is it the brotherly reference.

In Mamata’s context it is the ability to vanquish and overpower her alleged oppressors, in this case the BJP led by Modi-Shah duo as the political partnership between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah is described. Therefore, Didi being a dada is less Bengali and more Hindi wherein the word dada means strongman. In Banerjee’s case the word may well be gender-neutral.

That Mamata has emerged the new dada  in West Bengal has its genesis in the recently concluded elections which she won spectacularly. And this is not at all about the number of seats or inability to retain her own but about leading the charge as few can, or have, in the recent past.

For record, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress won 213 seats in the 292-member Assembly. However, Banerjee lost from Nandigram: the seat she had contested against her protégé turned rival Suvendu Adhikari. In face of the massive party win, her own defeat was of little consequence. Banerjee, however, has alleged that she would be moving the court on the issue. Earlier, the TMC  had requested for a recount in Nandigram on grounds that electronic machines were tampered with and false votes were cast in favour of BJP. The Election Commission turned down the request. Mamata Banerjee slammed it stating that the Commission is working at the behest of the BJP: “Earlier when I said that votes were looted in Nandigram no one believed me.  Can it happen that the entire state is giving one verdict and just one constituency is giving another? Servers were stopped for three hours. They announced the winner and later they retracted. Some kind of cheating was going on. We will file a case and fight in the court,” she said, referring to a thumping victory versus  what can be termed as a slim loss: in the state of West Bengal versus her constituency Nandigram  respectively.

The confusion about Nandigram arose after it was reported that Banerjee had won the seat by a margin of 1200 votes.

However, in the course of TMC’s splendid victory, Nandigram is but an aberration. Mamata Banerjee losing is of little, rather no consequence, in the overall scenario of West Bengal and perhaps national politics.

That Mamata Banerjee is a street fighter is a given. But the recent election was not a street fight; it was also not a battle. It was a war, one that was fought amongst the giants and the dwarfs, or to borrow from Jonathan Swift: the Lilliputians. In the West Bengal election, the diminutive Mamata Banerjee was the sole woman, slender and tiny, fighting the giants in the BJP.

The giants had descended on her state with their full  might: they pulled all sops,  used both money and muscle to make her bend. But she did not and even as she campaigned on a wheelchair after her controversial accident, she stood tall.

So here is a recap: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his catcalls of  Didi…o didi, which greatly conflicted with the sensitive Bengali psyche, Union Home Minister Amit Shah claiming to win 200 seats and see Banerjee’s rout, a battery of Ministers addressing one rally after another and huge amounts of money pumped in with TMC’s Derek O’Brien declaring that the BJP had out-funded the TMC. As if this was not enough, there was the accident in which Banerjee is said to have been targeted by BJP goons while the BJP slammed it a drama staged by the TMC to gain sympathy and retrieve whatever little was left of an election that seemed to have slipped out of Banerjee’s hands after a 10-year successful innings as Chief Minister of West Bengal. Irrespective, the accident, staged or real, took Mamata to hospital and later put her in a wheelchair.

Sympathy was already building up for her as the election progressed; the wheelchair bound diminutive and somewhat defenseless Mamata Banerjee was no match to the BJP’s big and rich boys. They were spitting fire and spewing venom at her, heaping abuse and often getting personal.

The way it panned out was that a single woman was fighting the demons.  This was true in more ways than one: Mamata Banerjee was taking on everyone singlehandedly, her mission to win and vanquish in what clearly was a do or die battle. If the election was a question of Mamata Banerjee’s political survival, it was for the BJP a prestige issue. The manner in which the BJP fought, the energies invested and the manpower deployed led even the optimists to say that Mamata Banerjee may scrape through. The victory that finally came her way, with TMC improving its tally of the last elections, was completely unexpected and surprised many even among her own party.

But Mamata’s win is not about numbers alone. Yes, they sure are indicative of the angst against the BJP but also give a message that if push comes to shove, the state of West Bengal and its people will always stand with one of their own. That is the most important singular message of this election that Didi fought valiantly. There can be no better word to describe the recently concluded battle in which Bangla’s nijer mein, daughter of Bengal, fought like Durga in a bid to protect her motherland when it was under threat.

There were apprehensions that the misdeeds of her men, be it corruption, violence or high handedness, would electorally haunt her. Perhaps they did to an extent. But what really came out on the ground was that this was not the time to punish Didi. It was a time to rally around her when the enemy had struck. This was the clear message of the Bengal election to the BJP, the people outside West Bengal and to India as a whole: If the enemy comes knocking we will not only slam the door but push him out with all our might.

Therefore, this was not a battle of governance of a state: it was saving on of their own from outsiders. As for governance, there were issues and Mamata Banerjee tried to correct the lapses by several schemes  be it Duare sarkar, government at every door, Kanyashree, cash transfers to retain girls at school, Rupashree, a financial grant at the time of a daughter’s marriage or adding the gender quotient by announcing welfare scheme for women. The sentiment  of Didi amader lockdown e chaal diyeche, she gave us rice during the lockdown, also resonated across the board.

Incidentally, the Covid-19 ghost came to haunt the Modi government in 2021. Modi’s mishandling of the second surge cast its shadow on the Bengal election wherein his absence and the lack of governance, when the Center should have led from the front, became an issue. The final  phases were under the shadow of the lethal second surge. In these phases, the TMC defied all odds and won 81 percent of the seats.  The eighth and final phase proved to be the best for the Trinamool,  where its strike rate was reportedly 89 percent.

Mamata Banerjee’s victory has wider repercussions which are not limited to the state of West Bengal. Her defeating the BJP sends positive signals to a nearly defunct national Opposition which can now rally around Didi, the new dada, and prepare to form a joint front to take on Narendra Modi in the general elections in 2024. Therefore Mamata Banerjee’s call in her rallies viz. “With one foot, I will win Bengal, and with both feet I will win Delhi,”  cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric.

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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