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Let’s Not Read Too Much Into Mamata’s Resignation Threat

She’s not naïve enough to do such a thing.

08/07/2017 9:55 AM IST | Updated 08/07/2017 10:15 AM IST
Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, is going through a turbulent time. The latest communal riots taking place in Baduria over a "blasphemous" Facebook post in the North 24 Parganas piles more pressure on the Chief Minister as she tries to get a grip on the violence in her state, along with the BJP gradually trying to enter West Bengal's political narrative.

Unrest and violence is not a new phenomenon in West Bengal. But the sudden increase in the number of riots since October last year has resulted in fresh doubts regarding Mamata Banerjee's tenure as CM. What makes situations worse is that, after the Baduria incident, rather than making a statement on how to take control of the situation, the TMC chief has started a political blame game with BJP, and accused Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi of threatening her and acting like a "BJP block president."

Despite her vast support base, especially in rural Bengal, this would be just too big a gamble to take.

She reportedly also said that she felt so "humiliated" by the Governor that she felt like "resigning". Apropos to this statement, I read an article in HuffPost titled "Mamata Banerjee Threatening to Resign Could Be Her Trump Card Against The BJP." In the article, contributing editor Swati Sengupta wrote that Mamata Banerjee resigning would set the BJP on the backfoot as people would be galvanised to support her more than ever. Mentioning the method in Mamata's "madness" Sengupta writes:

"If she chooses to resign, the government is dissolved and fresh elections take place in Bengal, she is likely to emerge victorious all over again, especially because the wave of sympathy will be in her favour."

But should Mamata take such a step? I think not. West Bengal at the moment is going through a testing period. While the state has long grappled with inadequate infrastructure, lack of job opportunities and political conflagrations, there is now the added challenge of the Centre's brand of Hindutva seeping into the state. Mamata has the new task of not only trying to curb internal unrest but also keep the BJP at bay. Thus, taking into consideration this new scenario, relinquishing her seat (no matter how bold the move may be) should be the last thing on her mind.

The BJP is looking for loopholes to exploit and they have already begun to campaign on the grounds that Mamata Banerjee is unable to stop these riots. If she quits her seat and takes her chances in a fresh election, the opposition might just gain the upper hand. Despite her vast support base, especially in rural Bengal, this would be just too big a gamble to take.

West Bengal is under the scanner. It is not the right time for a bold move, but for prudence and caution.

Yes, there are instances when Mamata has used strategic quitting to get positive results, such as her resignation from the post of Railway Minister and leaving the NDA in 2001, then TMC withdrawing support from the UPA in 2012. But those were different times. Even if we remember her massive win in 2010, it was not only because of her aggressive campaigning, but her steadfast approach towards dismantling the CPM hegemony in Bengal. That is not the sign of a quitter.

Also, just because Mamata Banerjee said that she felt like quitting, I don't think she meant it literally. I don't think she is naive enough to actually take such a step. A more reasonable solution will be for her to stand her ground and take charge rather than give up her seat and dissolve the government she worked so hard to establish.

Mamata Banerjee said in regards to the Governor that she is "deeply hurt". She has been hurt before both mentally and physically. But she did not quit before and now is definitely not the time to do so. West Bengal is under the scanner. It is not the right time for a bold move, but for prudence and caution.

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