In New Delhi’s power circles, those who are quietly celebrating Mamata Banerjee’s exit from UPA II and calling her a ‘loser’ had better think again. The feisty West Bengal Chief Minister is no Miss Muffet who can be scared off by lurking spiders. On October 1, Didi is storming the Delhi citadel against “Manmohan Singh’s anti-people’’ moves. But that’s just the beginning. She will be holding similar protest rallies across the country. Haryana, where her Trinamool Congress has made an entry, and Uttar Pradesh are next on her itinerary.
What could be even more worrying for the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi dispensation, Mamata wants to scale up her show of strength from Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to that bigger and famous agitational space, the Ram Lila Maidan, to underline her growing popularity and traction among the aam aadmis. If all goes according to script, the outcome of Mamata’s first foray outside West Bengal, into the heart of national politics, will be a brand-new ‘federal front’. The agit-prop could yield a valuable prop.
The protest venues are being “personally chosen by her’’ with care and a kind of political savvy not always associated with the temperamental Trinamool chief. Says a close associate, “She has the guts to take her fight to a Congress stronghold’’—Haryana. And then Uttar Pradesh, plainly to embarrass Samjawadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and force him to take a more stringent stand against the Centre than he would have otherwise done.
Even the protests per se are being planned to the last details. It’s “a combination of Anna with Obama”, says another Team Mamata member from Kolkata. From Anna Hazare, she has picked up the idea of taking force-multiplying “street protests” from elsewhere in India to the very heart of the capital. And by observing the Obama campaign, she has understood the art of social networking.
On Facebook, her ranks have started swelling, in no time. Villagers from Haryana, traders from Himachal, housewives from Delhi and students from the Hindi heartland responded in droves the moment Mamata wrote on her page on Friday: “Our fight for the cause of common people continues with the help of Maa, Mati, Manush throughout the country. Our persistent protest is against the unethical decisions on price hike of diesel, restriction of LPG cylinders, increase in fertilizer prices and permission of FDI in retail, which are not in the interest of the common people.’’