If there is one election which all Indians are looking forward to, it is undoubtedly the one to West Bengal’s assembly in 2021, where the incumbent Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee faces the gigantic task of protecting their hegemonic rule over the state from an aggressive BJP which is fighting day in and day out to emerge victorious early next year. By the looks of it, the TMC being able to survive BJP’s battering in the runup to the polls is highly unlikely, leave alone them somehow managing to form the government once again on result day next year. In fact, it is this very desperation of the incumbent party in Bengal that had led them to employ the services of a master number cruncher and backroom dealer Prashant Kishor, who some people hilariously call a ‘political strategist’
Prashant Kishor is the single reason why Trinamool Congress looks all set to lose West Bengal next year. The man, who was supposed to ensure a decisive mandate for the incumbent party once more, has turned into a headache for his momentary employer in Kolkata. Only today, TFI comprehensively explained how Kishor was giving rise to rebels within the TMC, and how multiple sitting MLAs from the party are rising in revolt against the top leadership due to the excessive interference of the famous number cruncher and his firm into organisational decision-making of the party.
Prashant Kishor was supposed to be the man who would help the TMC solidify its fort against the BJP, and make it unbreachable. Instead, he has become the sole reason why pillar and bricks of the said fort are falling apart, paving the way for the saffron party to completely overrun the incumbents. In fact, Kishor initially tried his best to project Mamata Banerjee as the only tall leader in India standing up against a purportedly draconian Modi government. Banerjee was portrayed as the Chief Minister who, contrary to popular belief, was just as much caring with regards to Hindus as she was of the minorities. This ideal plan of Kishor, however, has gone down the drain.
Kishor’s strategies not working out in West Bengal certainly does not mean that the man did not give in his best for the TMC. Take for instance the borderline Hinduisation of TMC MP Nusrat Jahan, as she took oath as a member of the Lok Sabha donning a saree and sindoor, hands filled with henna. Almost instantly, the Islamic clergy went up in arms against her attire, which was seemingly in contestation to her name, and as a consequence, a violation of her natural faith. Therefore, while the Hindus of Bengal were hardly impressed, the minority community felt agitated. Prashant Kishor, soon after his entry, therefore, resulted in the Muslims for the first time perhaps, feeling a sense of aversion towards the TMC.
Another purely political decision which will severely dent the TMC’s prospects amongst its hardcore minority vote banks is the state government’s decision, in the runup to Durga Puja festivities this year, to provide an increment in government allowances to the puja committees. The increment was that of a whopping 25,000 rupees from last year to an allowance for each committee amounting to Rs. 50,000. Again, while this move was aimed at wooing the Bengali Hindus of Bengal and cementing their support in favour of the TMC, the abject dislike of the present state government among the people is simply refusing to die down, even as the groundswell in favour of the BJP continues growing by leaps and bounds.
In the past few months, the TMC, under Prashant Kishor’s ill-informed political strategy has launched a number of campaigns, both digital, as well as on the ground. “Didi ke bolo (tell Didi)” outreach programme that was launched last year with a helpline number and a website offering people to come forward with their grievances was ferociously made a subject of attack by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in March this year. The idea of the outreach was to project ‘Didi’ (Mamata Banerjee) as a people’s CM. However, ‘Didi ke Bolo’ had turned out to be a humiliating failure for Mamata Banerjee. Earlier this year, Prashant Kishor’s team I-PAC had revealed that 80 per cent of the TMC MLAs had failed to abide by party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s diktat with regards to the ‘Didi ke Bolo’ drive.
As a replacement to ‘Didi ke Bolo,’ Kishor then made the TMC launch ‘BanglarGorbo Mamata,’ in an attempt to invoke Bengali chauvinism and toxic sub-nationalism. It is in line with the same that the TMC has been referring to the BJP as a party of ‘outsiders’, with Mamata Banerjee even saying that only Bengal can rule Bengal and that a BJP win in 2021 would mean letting Gujarat govern Bengal. However, Prashant Kishor’s attempt to rough up feathers of sub-nationalism in Bengal also does not seem to be reaping promising dividends of the TMC.
The truth is that Mamata Banerjee’s popularity in West Bengal is fast declining, even as people of the state crave for some political freshness. A dilapidated law and order situation in no ways seems to be working to the TMC’s favour. Instead of making Mamata Banerjee do some real groundwork to improve her ruling of the state, Prashant Kishor simply chose to undertake and also guide the party towards cosmetic changes and policies. Already, the Lok Sabha results of last year from Bengal stand as a testament to the fact that there is a massive undercurrent in favour of the BJP. At this rate, it would not be hyperbole to say that Bengal 2021 will be Prashant Kishor’s waterloo and Mamata Banerjee’s ultimate insult.