Embarking on an unprecedented warpath, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on July 4 that the state's Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi's words had insulted and hurt her so much that she had contemplated resigning from her position. The governor had reportedly called to discuss the communal violence that broke out in Kolkata's northern fringes. Banerjee said that the governor had "threatened" and "humiliated" her and spoke like a "BJP block president" instead of maintaining a neutral position.
Those who know Banerjee are well aware that every word she says about her political position is carefully thought out. There may have been several slips here and there, but hardly any to do with her political position or moves.
Therefore, it could be possible that resigning from her post is something that she may have been actually considering, rather than it being an emotional outburst. It may have even been a subtle threat to the BJP, or a trump card that she chose to not use yesterday, but something she may use any time in the near future and take the BJP by complete surprise.
She may have been ridiculed for her resignations, but each time Banerjee emerged more popular in the eyes of her main support base.
In the political battle that she is fighting against the BJP, Banerjee is bent upon holding the reins. She had, for a long time, fought a similar, bitter battle against the CPI(M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal. It is said that such was her hatred for everything red (associated with the Left parties), that she did not even touch laal cha (the tea brewed without milk, not only known by its slightly red colour, but also a favourite of the Communists). This single-minded pursuit to oust the Left Front government eventually reaped result: she wrested power in 2011 from the Left parties that had ruled for an uninterrupted for 34 years.
Now, Mamata Banerjee's politics is her fight against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And she is determined to show the same spirited, unswerving and fiery attitude in this new battle. Didi's supporters – predominantly the poor and rural population – like to see a leader who is continually under pressure and being unfairly treated by a superior power (in this case the BJP and the Centre), rather than "enjoying" power and the chief minister's seat. Therefore, even after she became the chief minister, many could see that she continued to play the role of a leader of the opposition.
Banerjee is well aware of this, and one of her very conscious moves has been to project her "dislike" for any seat of power, and she continues to make light of this power. It is as carefully worked out as her unkempt bun and her hawai chappals.
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.
It is also for this very reason that Didi has been able to resign several times from top political positions, because she wanted to continue to get support from the people who like her for this "detachment" despite being at the centre of power, something few Indian politicians have been able to achieve.
She may have been ridiculed for her resignations, especially by the Bengali bhadralok who considered her to be irresponsible and unable to carry out the role for which she had been elected, but each time Banerjee emerged more popular in the eyes of her main support base.
She had resigned as Railway Minister and had left the National Democratic Alliance in 2001, on the issue of the Tehelka tapes expose. This was just ahead of the Assembly elections in West Bengal, but she was unable to defeat the Left Front in power at that time.
In 2012, her party withdrew support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre on the issue of allowing foreign direct investment in single-brand and multi-brand retail, diesel price hike and LPG cap – which she said were "anti-people". Mukul Roy, Sougata Roy, Sultan Ahmed, Sisir Adhikary, Sudip Bandopadhyay and Choudhury Mohan Jatua, who were all ministers at the Centre, had resigned.
Banerjee is completely unpredictable, and whatever she decides, whether it eventually goes in her favour or not, she does not shy away from making bold moves.
She was able to drive home the point that despite being at the top, she remains detached from the trappings of political power. Even as several Trinamool Congress ministers, MLAs and MPs have been accused in chit fund scams, and many perceive them as corrupt, Banerjee has herself been able to remain clean in the eyes of a large section of the common people.
Now, one may speculate what is likely to happen if Banerjee really chooses to use the resignation trump card. It will, beyond doubt, put the BJP – that is trying to embarrass the chief minister on various issues – on the back foot.
Law and order is an important issue for every state, and therefore if people feel that Banerjee has not been able to keep the situation under control, or is unable to protect the people, she may lose their support. However, she does not want to let the BJP make any move that may project her "failure" to address the law and order situation in Bengal. Remember, she has a huge mandate – her party won 211 seats just a year ago, in 2016 (which is a better performance than 184 seats which brought her to power in Bengal in 2011). 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 for that, she would prefer to resign (because of "insult" or "disrespect" shown to her and the chair) rather than let the Centre make any move allegedly because of her failure.
If the BJP wants to consolidate Hindus by highlighting the fact that people from the community are not getting protection from the Bengal government and the Centre continues to put pressure on Banerjee saying she is unable to keep the situation under control, it is clear that the Bengal chief minister is ready with her next move. Banerjee is completely unpredictable, and whatever she decides, whether it eventually goes in her favour or not, she does not shy away from making bold moves.
Whether her decisions are good for Bengal or if the state has progress under her tenure are is matter for another debate. However, it is important to see how she remains true to her brand of politics because that gives an indication of the method in the madness, and the fact that she can be unbelievably daring in her political moves.
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