The why and fallout of Mamata's Ramlila anti-climax (Election Special)
From flying high on the wings of dreams to coming crashing down on stark reality - Mamata Banerjee's latest false start in Delhi politics has amused the West Bengal chief minister's critics to no end. But it has also triggered intense speculation about the turn of events and their likely impact on the upcoming parliamentary poll battle.
One point being hotly debated is why social activist Anna Hazare, who praised Banerjee to no end only last month and declared his support for her, famously stayed away from the Ramlila Maidan rally, leaving the Trinamool Congress chief - aspiring for a bigger role in the national stage - high and dry.
This is the second time that Banerjee's foray into national politics has ended in disappointment. In the run-up to the presidential elections in 2012, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had done a volte-face after jointly proposing three names with the Trinamool chief.
A section of Trinamool leaders - nothwithstanding the party's official stand of letting the issue peter out through public silence - see a BJP or Congress hand in the chain of events. But the opposition in West Bengal crows with delight at Hazare's realization that any association with Banerjee would "dent his credibility as a anti-corruption crusader" prompted him to skip the event.
The Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the BJP point to the Saradha ponzi scam and other corruption issues which have hit the headlines over the past 34 months that the Trinamool has been in power.
BJP state chief Rahul Sinha tried to take the credit for the Hazare no-show at the rally, that only attracted a meagre crowd.
"I had written to him that after fighting against corruption, was he set to be submerged in a sea of corruption," Sinha said.
But the Trinamool leaders claim there is something more sinister than what meets the eye.
They point to former Indian Army chief and now BJP leader Gen. V.K. Singh calling on Hazare a little after the scheduled rally.
They feel the BJP managers got going after the Trinamool announced the joint meeting in Narendra Modi's Gujarat on March 20.
Banerjee had seemed very eager about the Ahmedabad rally as she wanted to send a strong message to her home state - which has a 28 percent Muslim vote - about her firm opposition to the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
Those talking of a Congress hand find something uncanny in a lawyer-turned-politician's visit to Hazare a few days back.
The Gandhian, on his part, has only added to the confusion in his effort to "clear things".
While both the Trinamool and the Hazare camp tried to shake off responsibility for the poor crowd turnout, each claiming the other organised the rally, Hazare Friday pinned the blame on his close aide Santosh Bharatiya. "He told me that Mamataji is organising the rally. And he told Mamataji that Anna Hazare is organising the rally".
"I kept on enquiring from the morning about the crowd. But when I found such a low gathering at the place where I had staged a protest to demand the Jan Lokpal Bill, I realised something was wrong and skipped the rally," Hazare maintained.
On the rally day, another Hazare aide Sunita Godara had ascribed his poor health condition and chest congestion as the reason he kept away from the event, while adding: "Ananji would have attended it had there been a 10,000 strong crowd."
As for Banerjee, a direct casualty of the Ramlila flopshow has been the Ahmedabad meeting being "deferred for the time being". With Hazare virtually announcing Friday that his bonhomie with Banerjee was over, the other scheduled joint meetings in states like Uttar Pradesh also stand cancelled.
Instead, Banerjee has decided to turn her attention back to her home state by lining up a series of workers' conventions in the districts.
The Ramlila anti-climax has also raised questions in Trinamool circles on its set of advisers - mainly some Rajya Sabha MPs, with several of them having little political clout or organisational ability or experience - that Banerjee had relied on in her latest foray in New Delhi.
"She needs to seriously rethink whether quiz masters and businessmen are the ideal choice to lean on for such important political moves," said a Trinamool worker.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 15-03-2014)