Brand Mamata makes a big splash
Dubai/Kolkata: In December 1984, when a Congress rookie and rank outsider by the name of Mamata Banerjee pulled off a shock win over CPI (M) stalwart Somnath Chatterjee in the Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency, little did one realise that two-and-a-half decades later, politics in West Bengal would come to revolve around this one name.
So much so, that after 34 years of Left rule, the nerve centre of state politics is no longer confined within the precincts of the ruling CPI (M)'s headquarters on Alimuddin Street, but has come to develop a new power base — Harish Chatterjee Street, Banerjee's residence in Kolkata.
From being hit on the head by CPI (M) goon Lalu Alam during a rally in South Kolkata in 1990 to defecting from the Congress and forming Trinamool Congress in 1998, to being referred to as Bengal's "chief minister in waiting" …, Mamata's career has been one roller-coaster ride.
While the jury is still out on her finesse as a person, there is no denying the fact that this lady, with her ubiquitous minimalist approach to life has very consciously and successfully crafted her own brand equity of "Ma Mati, Manush" — mother earth and humanity all rolled into one potent electoral lexicon.
Until about three years back, no one would have given Mamata a hope in hell to rock the Red Citadel in Bengal, but rock she did and how! In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-Trinamool combine managed to garner 1.1 million more votes than the Left Front and it was the first time in 32 years of Left rule that the CPI (M) had lost an election in Bengal.
Shaking up a monolith as structured, regimented and cadre-based as CPI (M) is no mean task, but Mamata has done exactly that. She hit the Left where it hurts them the most — rural Bengal — thereby initiating a debate for or against "change" like never before in the state.
CPI (M) ‘confident of turnaround'
Reacting to a query on how confident CPI (M) was of making a ‘turnaround' in the assembly polls, Mohammad Salim, party central committee member, told Gulf News from Kolkata: "We have had very positive feedback from the electorate during campaigning. There is a growing disenchantment about the government at the centre over corruption, inflation and Maoist violence in the state. Trinamool, being a principal ally of UPA, cannot be immune to this growing frustration."