“I am a worker. I shall be with you as a worker. I shall work according to your directions,” said Mamata Banerjee while delivering her Shahid Diwas virtual address. In her around an hour-long address, Banerjee raised several issues while attacking the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. From Pegasus snooping to COVID-19 mishandling, Banerjee urged Opposition leaders to come together to defeat the BJP.
While the Shahid Diwas was meant to honour the souls of political workers who died in the 1993 police firing, Banerjee not only took a leaf out of the BJP’s book and used a state function as a national gathering against the saffron party, she also used the stage to send a message to the Congress that she was working to take the fight to Modi, but not under the grand old party’s leadership.
While Banerjee may have said that she will work as an ordinary worker, every opposition leader knows that she is not a leader who will let go of her share of the pie for charity. With today’s nationalised address, Banerjee has made it clear that she is looking beyond Nabanna and is up to set a new national alternative. If Banerjee only wished to function as a worker, then already there are a number of parties that have been working against the BJP with all their might and the TMC will be just another entry into that club.
Known for her feisty attitude, Banerjee is definitely not looking to leave Kolkata just for the sake of defeating the BJP and Modi. Soon after her thumping victory over the BJP in the Bengal polls, she was projected as the strong alternative to the BJP’s alleged ‘money and muscle power. The projection came in the wake of Trinamool Congress announcing that Modi will be challenged in Varanasi in the 2024 polls.
During her address, Banerjee said that she will visit Delhi between 27th and 29th July and urged the opposition leaders to call a joint meeting of Opposition parties including the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the AAP. The message was loud and clear – Mamata Banerjee has taken a plunge into national politics and Congress was nowhere in her scheme of things.
Banerjee, in her address, compared the Modi government’s schemes to her state’s schemes to drive home the point that if there is any model which needs to be followed is the Bengal model and not the Gujarat model, indirectly projecting her as the chief of the alliance.
“I don’t know what will happen in 2024, but we have to start our work, our planning from now,” said Banerjee while claiming that the Election Commission was compromised and was reduced to a BJP agency during the West Bengal polls.
Raising the Pegasus snooping issue, Banerjee showed her phone’s camera which she has covered with tapes. “I have plastered my phone’s camera. We need to put a plaster on the Government of India as well otherwise the country will be ruined,” said Banerjee.
The TMC supremo alleged that the BJP wants to establish a surveillance state and added that the BJP government has finished the federal structure of the country. “India is one of the largest democracies in the world. But now this BJP government has bulldozed democracy, they have finished the federal structure, they have finished the democratic rights,” she said.
Urging the opposition parties to unite, Banerjee said that the regional parties should keep their self-interest aside and should work for the common interest of saving the nation. “Our interest is to save the nation, save its people, save its states, save the structure of the federal state,” said Banerjee.
Banerjee alleged that BJP has taken the country to darkness and the opposition parties must come forward to take it to new light.
She also raised other issues including vaccine shortage, handling of the COVID-19 and misuse of the central agencies in an attempt to portray her national vision and appeal to a larger audience.
The next few days will be a crucial test for Mamata’s national gambit. A non-Congress, non-BJP third front is a tried and tested formula which failed every time due to the clashing ambitions of the regional satraps. Can the opposition parties arrive at a consensus this time around? And will they accept Mamata as their leader? The answers may lie in the outcome of the Uttar Pradesh elections which will be the first big test for the BJP in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.