Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
@AITCofficial (twitter)

Even a week ago, a sworn East Bengal supporter would have termed you a lunatic, if you had soothsaid that East Bengal would get to play in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).  

There were numerous blockades in their bid to join the top tier league in Indian football and the primary hurdle for the club was to rope in an investor who would be willing to shell out INR 50 crore a year, and look the other way not expecting any profits.

The club officials were in talks with a couple of business conglomerates but they were not being able to break the ice.

In came, Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, and courtesy of her behind the scene manoeuvres, East Bengal have not only been able to strike a partnership with a Nifty 50 company in Shree Cement, they have also ensured their ticket to the Ivy league of the county.

Although it was East Bengal’s big day, Banerjee hogged the limelight during the press conference at Nabanna, basking in the proverbial red-and-gold.

"The problem has been solved. Now East Bengal will play in ISL," announced the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo.

In a way, fate isn’t without a sense of irony. The politician-activist who came to power agitating against industrialists, had with deft manoeuvres, managed to get a Big Business on her side while saving an iconic Bengali institution.

There are not many instances in history, when a chief minister has picked up the hotline, made the most of his/her political clout, to save a football club from embarrassment and humiliation.

Well, to play in the second division, while your arch-rivals Mohun Bagan would rub their shoulders in top tier is an embarrassment, and that too when the club has just finished with its year-long centenary celebrations.

But Banerjee has her eyes firm on the 2021 state assemble elections. She has got a reality check in the 2019 Lok Sabha results that BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) has made significant inroads in the north capturing seven of the eight constituencies, and to make up ground she must think out of the box.

And traditionally, these northern districts, namely Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, have been East Bengal bastions. Most of them are border districts and in 1947 and latter in 1971, millions who crossed over from Bangladesh, has settled in these regions, that primarily form the supporter base of the club.

With Banerjee facilitating the entire process she has made an attempt to woo back voters who had turned their back on her during the Lok Sabha elections. To stage a comeback, the party was clamouring for a course correction and this move is definitely a step in the right direction.

In several East Bengal fan groups across various social media platforms, #JoyDidi was being uttered in the same breath as #JoyEastBengal which highlights that her mission has been accomplished.

But will it culminate into votes in May 2021? That remains to be seen, but few would argue that this coup de maître of the TMC chief is a shot in the arm for a party which had fallen flat on its face in North Bengal just over a year ago.

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