Rajat Sharma

How BJP is going to counter Mamata’s sympathy factor in Bengal polls

akbThe political battlelines in Bengal have now been drawn with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee deciding to address her election rally in Purulia on March 15, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching his campaign from March 18.

On Friday evening, Mamata Banerjee was discharged from SSKM Hospital in Kolkata after 48 hours of observation. Visuals of Mamata sitting in a wheel chair with her left leg cast in plaster, have now become the key poster for Bengal elections. The doctors had advised her complete rest and had said that her leg would be examined after a week. But the chief minister and her aides have now decided that she would resume her poll campaign.

On Friday after her discharge from hospital, Mamata looked weak and in pain. She was unable to stand up from her wheel chair. Her security personnel helped her by moving the leader to the front seat of the vehicle. Mamata did not speak to the media after being discharged, but it is now almost certain that she will be addressing most of her rallies sitting in a wheel chair. On Sunday (March 14), she will release her party election manifesto in Kolkata.

Now that her injury has become the talking point among common voters in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress leaders are expecting a huge sympathy wave in favour of their leader. Both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP have demanded probe into the incident in Nandigram in which Mamata was injured. Whatever may be the outcome of the probe, the sight of the chief minister addressing rallies sitting in a wheel chair is sure to become a big draw among the crowds.

A senior Trinamool leader like Saugata Roy tried to link three points. He said, one, state BJP leaders Dilip Ghosh and Saumitra Khan had already predicted that something was going to happen in Nandigram, two, the Prime Minister in his Brigade Parade ground speech had asked, what if Mamata’s scooty slipped in Nandigram, and three, the DGP and ADG(Law and Order) of state police were suddenly removed.

It is true Modi had asked what if Mamata’s scooty slipped in Nandigram, but it was a figurative remark. He was wondering whether Mamta would lose the Nandigram poll, but the PM’s remark was torn out of context by a senior leader like Saugata Roy. On Friday, Trinamool workers took out silent protest marches to condemn what they said ‘attack on our leader’. Till Wednesday, Mamata’s party was on the defensive with several leaders deserting the party, but Mamata’s injury has now kindled enthusiasm among her candidates and supporters.

Naturally, the BJP leadership is worried and their poll calculations have gone awry. If Mamata’s injury becomes the main political issue, it will surely act as an advantage point for Trinamool Congress. With Mamata campaigning in a wheel chair, the message to the voters will go out loud and clear. The ‘daughter of Bengal’ is sure to gain sympathy, particularly among women voters.

The BJP leadership will now have to calculate how to minimize the political damage that this incident has caused. Till the middle of this week, BJP was on the offensive, on issues like minorities appeasement, Hindu issues, political killings, and death of BJP supporters. But now, the table seems to have been turned.

A Mamata, sitting in a wheel chair, and levelling allegations about how she was attacked, is sure to go down deep into the psyche of the common Bengali voters. The visuals of Mamata’s left leg cast in plaster are surely going to put the BJP on the defensive. BJP leaders may question, why Mamata was silent when BJP President J P Nadda’s convoy was attacked in Diamond Harbour.

The only consolation for the BJP is that there are now many leaders now in the party, who were earlier associated with Mamata Banerjee. They know very well how Mamata, in the past, used her injuries to sway voters. These leaders are surely going to tell the voters that Mamata’s injury was a ‘political drama’. The most prominent of these leaders is Suvendu Adhikari, who, on Friday, filed his nomination from Nandigram against Mamata. It is Suvendu Adhikari who is now going to call the bluff.

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