The Miracle Lady Mamata Wins One Of The Biggest Election Battles Of India!

All the odds were stacked against her. She was facing the double anti-incumbency factor her party, Trinamul Congress (TMC), having ruled the state of West Bengal for two terms of ten years and herself as Chief Minister; there had been palpable anger against her party for charges of corruption and the lack of development. Then, the national ruling party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) had its full focus on this state after having conquered the whole of North Eastern region, most of the Eastern and the Northern region; since 2014 when the BJP-led government was established in India with the ideals of aggressive Hindu nationalism and religious polarization, the BJP decided to win over the whole of India, and West Bengal became the epicentre of their expansion plans; the BJP mastered only three seats in the Assembly Elections of West Bengal in 2016, but that increased in a spectacular fashion in the Lok Sabha general elections in 2019 when the BJP captured 18 seats of 42 thus reducing TMC’s seats from 34 in 2016 to 22; and buoyed by that the national ruling party wanted to win the 294-seat Assembly Elections of West Bengal-2021, desperately enough even to defy the threatening second wave of the pandemic.


Therefore, she got pitted against the full might of the central government in terms of limitless money and muscle power; all the machinery and the agencies of the government geared up; and all the top leaders of the BJP including the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and almost all other ministers holding rallies in the state preaching against her that amounted, at times, even to heckling. The eternal fights between the workers of BJP and TMC flared up months prior to the elections leading to deaths on both sides and crossfire of allegations from both sides.


Then, quite early in the campaigning trail, she suffered a fracture on her left leg, just above the ankle, and after spending a few days in hospital had to do the remaining campaigns from the wheel chair. Further, the election was planned in an unprecedented 8-phase schedule which she alleged was done only to suit the BJP. Further, many of her trusted ex-ministers and members of her party defected to the BJP. Lastly, most of the exit polls predicted a tight fight between the BJP and the TMC, even indication a hung assembly, and in light of the immense power of the national ruling party just reaching the halfway mark was not considered safe for TMC as horse trading and defections, of late, have become an integral part of the Indian elections.


And, Mamata Bannerjee, the two-term Chief Minister of West Bengal, not only won the elections, but registered her third consecutive landslide victory; even bettering the haul of 209 seats in 2016 with 213-14 seats out of total 292 polled this time. By all the parameters as mentioned above this battle was billed as one of the biggest election battles ever in India with an air of absolute suspense about the final outcome, and the tremendous victory of Mamata cast a spell of absolute wonder and admiration over the media and all stakeholders, and of course, the ecstatic supporters of TMC and the citizen-voters of the state many of whom could not stop themselves coming out in the streets defying COVID norms. The victory has instantly catapulted Mamata Bannerjee as the most potent opposition leader of the nation to creditably fight the might of the BJP, a secularist challenge to the prevailing communal politics.


Mamata Bannerjee always calls herself a worker, a grass root worker at that, and in fact, her party’s name ‘Trinamul’ means grassroots. She has never been a lady with the sophisticated mannerisms of a seasoned politician; she acts and behaves always as a tough street-fighter, and never says no to challenges irrespective of how big or impossible these are. For this election too, she has kept on fighting like a tigress declaring the now-iconic 'khela hobe' (let's play), never bowing down to anything or compromising anything. Her key associate Suvendu Adhikary defected to the BJP in December 2020, somewhat initiating the surge of defections. Adhikary has been Mamata’s best bet from the constituency of Nandigram for the last two elections, and his defection was a huge loss. The local BJP leadership teased her to fight from Nandigram if she dared. The brave lady, endearingly called Didi (elder sister) in the state and now nationally, indeed took up the challenge, abandoned her usual constituency and filed her nomination from Nandigram against Adhikary; and she even declined to contest from a second constituency for safety. The Nandigram fight became the national obsession. And it was in Nandigram she broke her leg, in an incident that was officially declared as an accident, doubts, however, remained.


Nandigram fully justified why it should be a national obsession. From the initial rounds of counting Suvendu Adhikary was leading, at one stage more by than ten thousand votes, but in the later rounds Didi was catching up fast and managing to take a slender lead. Finally, at the end of the 16th and last round a news agency declared Didi as winner by 1200 votes; however, after some time Adhikary was declared winner by around 1900 votes. The Election Commission of India said, at that stage, that it had not received the final figures; however, afterward Didi’s loss was confirmed. It was an anti-climax of sorts in the unbelievable proceedings of the counting process. Didi conceded to this defeat magnanimously in her first address to the public and later to the media, saying that this loss was nothing in comparison to the overall verdict; but, she maintained, she wouldn’t let it go like that and would appeal for a recounting. She also asked her fans to go back home, strictly abide by COVID-appropriate behavior and to plan celebrations only when the dreaded virus was brought under control.


So then, this was the brief story of a brave odds-defying lady staging a tremendous victory. This writer had been a little critical of her autocratic inclination on earlier occasions; and yes, she retains her share of autocratic dealings and the charges of appeasement-to-minority politics. But, at this historic moment we salute Didi and look forward to having her as a great leader on the national front in near future in the pursuit of re-establishing the time-tested values of secularism, so important for a richly diverse and plural democracy like India.


In the remaining four state assembly elections, as results were declared after the counting of votes from the 2nd of May 2021, the Left Democratic Front created history in Kerala by retaining its power with a thumping majority, for the first time in the history of the state’s assembly elections; in Tamil Nadu the DMK-Congress alliance successfully stopped the AIADMK-BJP alliance and came back to power after ten years; BJP retained power in Assam, and defeated the Congress in the Union Territory of Puducherry where the BJP engineered a defection drama before the elections managing to form an alliance and winning the majority of the seats. The Indian National Congress or the Congress party was decimated pitifully everywhere except for its piggy riding bout on the DMK in Tamil Nadu, and in West Bengal the Left-Congress alliance was totally obliterated denying BJP the expected gains from a split of the anti-BJP votes.


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