On social media, a massive campaign has been mounted against the government’s unflinching stance on the timely conduct of crucial entrance exams like JEE and NEET. The campaign seeking a postponement in the said entrance exams was further galvanized after the Supreme Court rejected a plea to the same effect. The alleged angst and uproar within the student community against the conduct of these examinations is now forming the premise for opposition parties to ‘unite’ once again, and leading the futile charge is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Speaking at a virtual conference of non-BJP Chief Ministers, Mamata Banerjee called upon all such states to jointly move to the Supreme Court against its previous order which permitted the slated conduct of the examinations. Banerjee, who has also requested the Central government to file a review of the said order at the apex court at the virtual conference of opposition Chief Ministers, said that their states must jointly move the top court in this regard to save the student community from “mental agony and mental disaster.”
The grossly politicised campaign, which has become a mud-fest for the opposition parties to mount an attack on the Modi government, is witnessing increased posturing by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who is working overtime to project herself as the sole messiah of students. Within two days, the sub-nationalistic leader from Bengal shot off two letters to the Prime Minister seeking a postponement of the entrance examinations and calling upon his government to file a review with the Supreme Court over their earlier order.
The increased posturing by Mamata Banerjee comes at a time when the opposition has self-destructed itself, not to mention at a time when Sonia Gandhi’s influence in Indian polity has nosedived. Sonia Gandhi’s reduced influence over the opposition parties can be attributed to the rather large-scale rebellion which has come to fore from within the Congress, where several senior Congress leaders have revolted against a stagnant and non-effective leadership. There is a severe leadership void within what should have ideally been a united opposition, and Mamata Banerjee is looking to fill in just those shoes.
From what is visible on social media, the campaign to postpone the NEET and JEE is visibly attracting huge traction, with a multitude of students participating wholeheartedly to seek a postponement barely days before the examinations. For Mamata Banerjee, this is an opportune moment to attempt a win-over the students and youth of India, particularly in the state of West Bengal. It is no secret that the TMC supremo has prime ministerial ambitions, and to even think of fighting for residence at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg would require work from now on.
There is also the scare of the state assembly elections approaching next year, in which the BJP is all set to give the Ma, Mati, Manush leader a run for her money. Mamata Banerjee is staring at the prospect of very well being unseated from the Chief Ministerial seat by the saffron party, and to prevent that, she must win over the youth, which as per many estimates will be forming a major chunk of the BJP’s vote share in the state.
With the Sonia brigade sinking nationally, Mamata Banerjee is projecting herself as a national leader who can unite all opposition leaders under one umbrella. As such, she is also indicating to whosoever it may concern, that she is the biggest political behemoth in India taking directly on PM Modi. This serves her larger political ambitions, of getting coronated as the Prime Minister by a united opposition in the future.
However, it is not the first time that Mamata Banerjee is flexing her muscles among the many opposition parties of India. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Mamata had organised a massive anti-government rally in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade ground, which was more or less attended by every opposition party of the country. Those were the times when the infamous ‘mahagathbandhan’ was slated to pose a major challenge to the incumbent BJP government in Delhi, with Mamata fragrantly claiming that the saffron party would not be crossing the 125 seats mark nationally. What a disaster that turned out to need no mention. Nevertheless, this is to say that Mamata has similarly tried her luck previously too, and has expensively failed at the same as the BJP was able to steal 18 Lok Sabha seats from under her nose.
The uproar among the student community against the scheduled conduct of NEET and JEE is thus being used by Mamata Banerjee as a stepping stone to consolidate and solidify her image as a national leader who houses the capability of bringing all anti-BJP parties under one umbrella. Of course, she is doing so at a time when Sonia’s influence is on an unprecedented downward spiral, and that might speak a lot about Mamata herself.