Mamata Banerjee prides herself as a product of protest. She never misses an opportunity to remind how she doggedly fought the once mighty and well entrenched Left Front, and vanquished it.
“Amake andolan dakhaben na. Aami andolan theke toiri hoyechi (Do not teach me about protest. I am a product of such protest movements),” she is often heard saying.
True to her words, she is combative and prone to playing victim card like any other perennial street fighter. She has neither been a good negotiator nor has she been calculative.
Playing the victim card
Her impulsive and firebrand nature endeared her to even ‘bhadralok’ Bengalis for whom she was initially an outcaste. As her acceptability grew, Bengalis, who love to consider themselves as victims of myriad conspiracies, found in her confrontationist self their own alter ego. She was hailed as ‘agni kanya’ (fiery daughter).
Banerjee was then a challenger, and naturally the fire and the flux image held her in good stead, and even helped her metamorphose into an incumbent.
Now, she is no longer a challenger. She is the all-powerful ruler. But Banerjee is finding it difficult to cope with this role reversal.
Whenever, she is confronted with or challenged, almost as a reflex reaction, she becomes combative and plays victim. Daring the BJP to topple her government recently, she warned a “wounded tiger is more lethal than the dead one.”
To her advantage, until the stunning performance of the BJP in the last general elections, her eight-year stint at the helm was without much hiccup. So her trouble-shooting skill was never put to test.
The election results announced on May 23, wherein the saffron party emerged as a forceful opponent, bagging 18 of the West Bengal’s 42 Lok Saba seats, changed the scenario.
Suddenly, she is besieged with problems, severely challenging her firefighting skill. To the dismay of even many of her party leaders and well-wishers, Chief Minister Banerjee appears to be failing in the test.
Her handling of the ongoing strike by junior doctors of government medical colleges and hospitals demanding enough security in their work places, which has paralyzed the state-run health care system, is just one such instance.
As the strike enters the sixth day on Sunday (June 16), the state government has still no answer to the impasse, which has been made complicated by her reckless remarks, questioning the integrity of the medical professionals of the state.
Instead of making an amend to her remarks, she apparently told a group of senior doctors who tried to mediate to break the deadlock that it was she who was attacked and humiliated by the doctors when she went to Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital on Friday.
Later, talking to media, she even hinted that it was people from outside the state who were orchestrating the stir and that the BJP and the CPI (M) were instigating them.
There is no denying that the opposition parties, particularly the BJP, are trying to fish in the troubled water. It was BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Dilip Ghosh who first gave communal colour to the attack on doctors on Monday night at the Nilratan Sircar Medical College Hospital that triggered the nationwide protests by doctors.
The duo blamed the minority Muslim community for the violence and even alleged that the government was not taking action against the perpetrators as they were the voters of the ruling TMC.
That, however, does not absolve the chief minister of her failure. It’s unfortunate that instead of coming across as one who is capable of delivering justice to the doctors, the chief minister is crying foul and trying to give an impression that she was being wronged.
The recent strike was an outburst of panted anger against the government machinery, which has failed to prevent at least 235 such attacks on doctors that took place across the state in last two years.
When asked about those attacks, Banerjee said the figure was not entirely correct, quickly adding that attempts were being made to malign the state.
Even on Saturday’s (June 15) press conference, which was convened to send out an olive branch to the protestors, her tone and tenor were not reconciliatory. Rather, she was trying to give the message that despite several provisions at her disposal to crackdown against the agitators, she has been patient with them even though they were unfairly tarnishing the image of her government and even humiliating her.
As a chief minister Banerjee cannot afford to be seen as the one who has been wronged. She should be the one delivering the justice.
Unless the chief minister realizes this and stops playing victim and blames others for the problems confronting her, the traits that held good for her in the past could well be her nemesis in future.