Updated on: Wednesday, January 05, 2022, 08:41 AM IST

2021 was the best year for Mamata Banerjee, 2022 may not be as great, writes Sayantan Ghosh

Mamata Banerjee | PTI

Mamata Banerjee | PTI


The year 2021 has been politically significant. Amid many political developments, one person who has repeatedly rocked the headlines of national news was certainly Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.

The beginning of 2021 was not promising for Banerjee. During that time, everybody used to talk about how the Bharatiya Janata Party was breaking up the Trinamool Congress and taking away its leaders. “How do you think Mamata Banerjee will win the upcoming assembly election in Bengal? More than half of her party members have already joined the BJP or will, in some days,” a Delhi journalist had asked me at a new year gathering.

My answer was simple, “Bengal’s politics is different from northern India’s when it comes to religion and caste.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, along with other top BJP leaders repeatedly visited Bengal for campaigns. The national media portrayed a different image of Bengal.

The overall feeling was that Banerjee would lose the state. But the ground reality was different. The Hindutva narrative of the BJP was not resonating with the people. The media hype continued and the propaganda of the BJP increased every day. Bengal witnessed a massive polarised campaign but amid all the propaganda, Banerjee stood strong. During the campaign, she broke her leg.

It was alleged that BJP goons had attacked her in Nandigram which led to the disaster. Riding in a wheelchair, with the slogan of ‘Khela Hobe’ (game will happen) and the rhetoric of ‘Bengla Nijer Mayke E Chay’ (Bengal wants her own daughter) Banerjee won a historic, landslide victory against the BJP. Behind this victory, there were two people: one was the poll strategist Prashant Kishor and the other, Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek.

With this victory, Kishor became the one and only kingmaker of Indian politics and Abhishek became the undisputed No. 2 of the party. Thereafter, the TMC announced its ambition of expansion under the leadership of Mamata and Abhishek.

In this election, Mamata fought from Nandigram and lost to her former close confidant, Suvendu Adhikari, who had joined BJP months before the election. She lost but her fighting spirit benefited the party, helping it sweep Bengal by winning 217 seats out of 292.

Recently, the TMC also won a landslide victory in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation election. Bengal’s politics changed radically in this election. The Left and Congress were wiped out and the organisation of the BJP, based on defecting leaders from TMC began witnessing reverse migration.

Key defectors, Mukul Roy (once No. 2 in the TMC), and around five MLAs joined TMC. Mamata realised that there was a wave and it was about her. Riding this wave, Mamata first targeted states like Tripura and Goa where the Congress Party was weakening.

And began to break up the Congress Party. First, noted Congress leader from Assam Sushmita Dev joined, followed by former Congress CM of Goa Luizinho Faleiro, Bihar MP Kirti Azad, former MP of the JDU Pawan Verma and others.

The TMC also took away many leaders from other parties in Goa. Now, it has one MLA in Goa and emerged as the No. 2 in the Tripura local body election. But Mamata received the biggest boost from Meghalaya, as around 12 of 17 sitting MLAs of the Congress, including ex-CM Mukul Sangma, joined the TMC overnight.

The party which had no presence in Meghalaya got 12 MLAs without even fighting an election. Mamata realised that this was the best opportunity for her to present herself as an alternative to the Congress. After she met with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, she made it clear that there was no UPA anymore.

Hinting at the Gandhi family she said that the opposition leadership could not be the birthright of only one political party and one family. She visited Delhi, followed it up by visiting Mumbai and meeting several political leaders from different political parties.

Without meeting Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata sent out a clear message that she and her party wanted to be different. Many criticisms started coming on her way and several political observers believe that it would be dangerous to weaken the Congress thus.

While the Congress alleged that Mamata was working on behalf of the BJP, her presence in national politics was felt across party lines. She has not hesitated to make it clear that she has the hunger for power and the courage to fight on the streets.

Undoubtedly, 2021 was the best year for Mamata. However, 2022 might not be as great for her. The Goa assembly election will take place in February-end and the party is already facing a lot of trouble in the state. Many senior leaders who joined the TMC from other political parties have left, claiming that the TMC is communal.

Meanwhile, the party will have to prove its worth in Tripura too. Building an organisation from scratch will need lots of ground support, which is lacking for Mamata in Tripura. Lastly, she will have to maintain support in Meghalaya. Right now, the TMC has no original organisation in Meghalaya and that is why it would be completely dependent on the leadership of Mukul Sangma.

Meanwhile, after the Uttar Pradesh election, many things might change in national politics too. The key challenge for Mamata in 2022 will be balancing the governance of Bengal, managing the TMC’s expansion plan and becoming the key face of the opposition.

(The writer is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and former policy research fellow, Delhi Assembly Research Centre. Views expressed are entirely personal)

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Published on: Wednesday, January 05, 2022, 08:41 AM IST