By Arun Srivastava
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is on the mission to the National Capital, after assuming office for a third term, to prick the aura of Narendra Modi and dismantle the perception of his being invincible. Just before leaving for Delhi she sent a clear message through her action of constituting a judicial commission to probe the Pegasus scandal not only to the BJP but also to her opposition allies. Her move not only turned the table on Modi, a task which should have been done ideally by him but also heralded the emergence of Mamata as the national figure, amidst trending of #Ab Ki Baar Didi Sarkar on social media.
Ironically some political analysts, and especially some journalists who claim to be anti-Modi, do not feel convinced with her move and are sceptical of her success. It is again the fault of their perception. These people hold that Modi after winning the 2014 Lok Sabha election succeeded in creating the perception of being invincible. They also seek clarification from Mamata whether she would be able to restore the glory the country that it has lost in last seven years.
Even if one subscribes to their trepidations, it cannot be denied that she has exposed the wrong side of Modi. Why has he not been announcing a probe into Pegasus scandal? The probe panel comprising retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur and former Calcutta high court chief justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya will look into allegations of snooping on people from Bengal using Israeli spyware Pegasus. The two-member panel has been formed under Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. The Act empowers both the Centre as well as states to institute an inquiry commission. Questions are put that whether the officials will be under legal obligation to depose before the panel.
One ought to not forget that states have been ordering judicial probes. In this case the Modi government would have to cooperate with the panel else it would have to bear the stigma of being in collaboration with the main accused. This also highlights the concern about the security of the country which has been frequently used by Modi to humiliate and denigrate his political opponents. More than the legal implication, the political importance of the probe panel is quite pronounced. She succeeded in apprising the people that Modi was a collaborator. Mamata’s move has an underlying message for the opposition. By trying to checkmate Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the snooping issue, the TMC leader is positioning herself as the main challenger to the BJP strongman.
They also ask that will she be able to de-privatise the PSUs, restore the character of the RBI, to revive the economy and restore the properties that have been usurped by the Ambanis and Adanis. Their questions are genuine. But for rectifying the wrong doings of Modi it is imperative that Modi should lose the 2024 elections. This could not be achieved unless the opposition gets united and goes to the polls under the leadership of an individual. They argue that these achievements would bring about a change in the perception.
An insight into their arguments makes it explicit that if she cannot promise to deliver these, in that case she must not aspire to replace Modi. Really their arguments are preposterous and ridiculous. By raising these questions at this stage when Mamata is yet to make an effective intervention in the national political structure and system, these political experts and progressive journalists were simply strengthening the hands of Modi. Already similar set of suspicions and wrong premonitions were created against Rahul Gandhi. Even today a large section of people nurse doubts about his administrative and political capabilities.
Modi did not create the perception just after winning the election. The ground was created by the BJP patriarch L K Advani and the opportunity was provided by the Congress. Modi simply exploited and used the objective conditions that were made available to him. The Goa meet of the national executive of the BJP made it abundantly clear that RSS was ready with the resources. But in the case Mamata the situation is quite different. TMC is Bengal based and the opposition parties are in a state of trans. Obviously she would have to do all the task, from worshipping the god to performing the task of a cobbler.
These experts and journalists have also been trying to convey that she does not have numbers in her favour by citing the seats won by the BJP under Modi in the last two elections of 2014 and 2019. Playing with the electoral figures is the easiest task. But predicting results based on the electoral arithmetic is the toughest duty. In Bengal itself the BJP had won 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 elections. In fact Amit Shah was dreaming to get more than 200 seats based on the permutations and combinations of the 2019 election. But in 2021 assembly election people negated all the arithmetical exercises. The electoral gains are not mechanical. Many other things, like culture, economics, politics, social changes, play significant roles.
The major plus point for Mamata is the prevailing perception amongst the people that she had the guts to call a spade a spade and catch the bull by horns. No doubt Rahul Gandhi has sharply emerged as the potential challenger to Modi. But he is being haunted by his own failures and wrong imperatives. How these experts explain Modi losing the elections held during the last four years. BJP had lost assembly elections in Goa and Madhya Pradesh. Amit Shah managed to form the governments in these two states by bribing the MLAs. Incidentally all his machinations failed to bring in the desired result in Bengal. It is irony that Modi’s invincibility even did not help him in Tamil Nadu. Even if one goes by the common perception that Kerala is a regimented state and it was not easy for Modi to win the election there, he could have won the elections in Tamil Nadu which is open, having no political regimentation.
Modi and Shah had met with their worst results in Bengal. The defeat they suffered has broken them from inside to such an extent that they are in a state of stupor in deciding their strategy for the elections in Uttar Pradesh. The Bengal defeat has made them lose their authority and it came into open when they failed to goad the UP chief minister Yogi who virtually challenged them. Mamata has signalled that she is leading the opposition charge and it is enough to rejuvenate the forces opposed to Modi. It is worth mentioning that the CPI(M) which had treated TMC and BJP as its enemies on equal footings, has brought about a significant change in its ideological stand and has resolved to join the opposition to ensure the defeat of BJP. It no more believes in the thesis of equidistance between the TMC and BJP. The recent gains would play a major role in convincing the opposition leaders about her prowess and subsequently bring them together.
The intensity of Mamata fear that grips the BJP could be made out from the simple fact that the 22 IPAC employees of Prashant Kishor who are in Tripura to assess the political situation and potential support base for the Trinamool Congress for assembly election in 2023 were stopped by the state police from coming out of their hotel for carrying out the survey. The police has not given any official reason for the detention, only claiming the IPAC team had violated Covid norms. Sources in the IPAC said the team had all the necessary Covid-related papers. In her mission of uniting opposition against the BJP ahead of the 2024 national elections, in which Prashant Kishor — her poll strategist in the assembly elections — is playing a key role. If the sources are to be believed, the police has been interrogating the team members as if they were terrorists. Surprisingly the state police were verifying their credentials. This was confirmed by the officer-in-charge of East Agartala police station Saroj Bhattacharjee said, “They were not detained. We are now verifying their documents.” (IPA Service)