Politics

The Mamata Meltdown: How Didi’s Hyper-Histrionics Are Denting Her Own Image

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The jury is out on whether it may be because her party’s finances are severely stressed post-demonetisation or her fear that scam-accused colleagues may lead the trail to her.

It is not a good development for West Bengal in the long run because it only means she’ll keep choosing theatrics over governance.

The Mamata Banerjee we see now appears all too distant from the one who was almost cheered by all quarters as she unseated Communists in West Bengal single-handedly. When she swept to power there was a hope, even if small, that Bengal would change. What has unraveled since is absolute pandemonium, a lesson in being ‘Left-er’ than the Left in all their infamy.

Her governance has made few positive headlines in the current term or the previous one. Instead the Communist tradition of authoritarian strong-arm tactics, political violence and political murders has continued with just the predator-prey equation changing.

But her massive meltdown since demonetisation shows Didi going totally berserk even by her own rather maverick standards. To even the naive, her hyper-histrionics convey optics that indict her severely in the public eye – the perception is either that she has lost a lot personally along with the moneybags behind her party or that she's being a nuisance in a popular national endeavour. She seems to have made even the Congress party, with all its inglorious recent history of scams look cleaner than her since they're somewhat less hyperactive than her on this matter, thanks to Rahul Gandhi who refuses to grow up beyond political adolescence and the party which refuses to grow beyond the Gandhis.

There's no love lost between her and the Prime Minister – in her eyes – especially since the dirt on Saradha and now on Rose Valley has been unearthed. Several people from her party have been under the scanner for alleged direct involvement in these suspected multi-thousand crore Ponzi schemes.

Fearing any trail of central investigation agencies reaching her, she may be playing all her cards in order to bring some sort of political instability by rallying all the Prime Minister's opponents. Sadly for her, the Opposition has been reduced to a group of regional satraps, who have no credibility left to take on a Prime Minister whose personal popularity is clearly rising unabated. Her political theatre of the absurd has found its perfect co-protagonist in Arvind Kejriwal, another regional satrap known for his continuous tirades against the PM.

There's another angle to her histrionics more seeped in local factors. Her kowtowing to radical fringe Islamist elements is invisible only to the most selectively myopic sections of the media. For everyone else social media has brought shocking pictures of the hooliganism unleashed by radical Islamic fringe elements. The unleashing of their mob fury seems greatly aided by her government's total denial or maybe even blessings towards the dangerous situation. Kaliachak in Malda, where alarmingly high numbers of radical Islamists were allowed to congregate and damage property and Dhulagarh, where radical Islamist elements ran riot recently point towards a dire situation.

Some reports went so far as to suggest Islamists didn't allow Durga Puja to happen in certain areas of Bengal – severely disturbing since the Pujo is synonymous with the very existence of Bengal.

A fallout of this is a silent counter-consolidation of Hindus happening in favour of the BJP, seemingly even without any aggressive campaigning. This may be the cause of much worry for Banerjee. Her recent outbursts and overplaying of the "Modi is targeting us" card is a clear attempt to play the local versus Delhi bogey to keep her base together. The brazen thuggery that followed high-profile arrests of her colleagues was typical – targeting BJP offices and BJP leaders through violent attacks in West Bengal betrayed her political style of functioning.

Firefighting a situation where her high-profile aides are being netted one by one in scams even as the the BJP base in Bengal is growing, seems to be taking a toll on her leading to meltdowns. Her statements border on the hilarious when she suggests a national government led by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani or Finance Minister Arun Jaitley or Home Minister Rajnath Singh should be formed by ousting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This betrays an absolute denial of national political realities at worst and lotus-eating at best. The PM is here to stay and the very people who she thinks should replace him would attest to this.

It is clear she sees this as a final battle for self-preservation. The jury is out on whether it may be because her party's finances are severely stressed post-demonetisation or her fear that scam-accused colleagues may lead the trail to her. It is not a good development for West Bengal in the long run because it only means she'll keep choosing theatrics over governance.