The Importance of being Mamata Banerjee

The Importance of being Mamata

Rajesh Kochhar

Sachin Dev Burman was a famous Hindi film music director who largely based  his tunes on Bengali folk music. He had a tiff with the melody queen Lata Mangeshkar and the two stopped working together. However when S.D. Burman’s   talented son Rahul Dev Burman decided to become a full-fledged music director in his own right, the father patched up with Lata for the son’s sake. Senior Burman’s own stature was so high that he would have  been able to manage without Lata, but the junior needed all the support he could muster.

This 60-year old anecdote from musical Bengal is relevant in the context of   today’s political Bengal.

It is very likely that in the days to come she will be asked to play a major role at the national level. In that case, she may decide to devote full time to national politics and hand over the state government to his nephew Abhishek. It is for his sake that Select TMC deserters are being persuaded to return to their party. Mamata can manage without them, but Abhishek would profit from the returnees’ support, counsel, and good will. The timing is right because succession issue has already been settled. Lest the re-induction is seen as a sign of weakness, green light will be shown selectively. Those who had bad-mouthed her on leaving the party would not be accepted.

The historical significance of her achievement  lies not in the numbers inside the Assembly but in the fact that singlehandedly she took head on the powerful  forces of communalism, hatefulness, and divisiveness and came out victorious.

The UP Assembly elections next year will be her acid test as a national leader; she should be seen as playing an influential role in them. BJP did exceedingly will in 2017. It along with its allies polled 40% of the votes and won 80% of seats. It will not be possible to repeat such a performance next year. Recent Panchayat election results already point towards BJP’s weakened hold.

In 2017 Jats had overwhelmingly voted for BJP. But this time because of farmers’ agitation they will return to their previous time-tested alliance with Muslims. In other words, BJP is expected to suffer losses in the western parts of UP.

In 2017 of the 84 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, BJP was able to win   83%. Dalit vote however should not been seen in isolation. To an extent its behaviour is predicated on that of the Brahmin vote. Brahmins and Dalits are natural allies because there is no economic conflict between them. No single vote bank can ever come to power. For a candidate to win an election, there should be a coalition of at least two and a half vote banks in his/her favour before actual polling. If in yesteryears, Congress was able to provide a stable government for long, it is because it was able to forge a coalition of Brahmin, Dalit, and Muslim votes. The same formula worked again in case of Mayavati except that the coalition was led by a Dalit and not a Brahmin.

Brahmins carry tremendous pride in their caste status and see themselves in a leadership role. The community has provided the state and the nation with some towering leaders. In spite of his secularism and liberalism,  Nehru was viewed by Brahmins as one of them.  Brahmins have similarly recognized the leadership positions of A. B. Vajpayee and M. M. Joshi. The community has provided UP with many eminent chief ministers: G. B. Pant, Kamlapati Tripathi, N. D. Tiwari, and H. N.  Bahuguna.

UP Brahmins now are an angry lot. They feel marginalized, humiliated, and insecure. Can they shift their allegiance? Samajwadi Party is an alternative. The rapport built between Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata should make SP attractive for Brahmins. Still, Brahmins would like to see a political platform of their own which will protect their interests in the government as well at societal level. Mamata is the tallest Brahmin-by-birth  leader in North India. Her initiative will enthuse the UP Brahmin voter. It will be futile to expect any vivification from Congress. UP Congress is like a dead body lying in the middle of the road and obstructing free flow of traffic. Out of the ashes of the old Congress there should emerge a new Congress, TMC. Mamata to begin with was a Congress worker. When she set up her own party, she advisedly named it Grass-Root Congress. UP also needs a similar grass-root organization. TMC should enroll not only Brahmins but others also, and  create an active cadre and leadership whose comfort zone is not drawing room or cyber café but streets and maidans.

Mamata is a courageous person. Her commitment to values enshrined in the Constitution is total, and she lays down her agenda. Her active role in UP will strengthen Constitutional forces and exert influence elsewhere.

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