PM's ‘Didi-o-Didi' cat call receives a tight slap in Bengal but will the lesson last or be lost ?

Both Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah must share the responsibility for reducing the election in Bengal to the level of street fights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Left) and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Right).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Left) and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Right).
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Faraz Ahmad

It was the feisty Mahua Moitra, MP, who educated most of us non-Bengalis and non Calcuttans that the loud ‘Didi-o-didi' call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally in Bengal amounted to a cheap cat call often raised by street Romeos at passing damsels. And Mamata has rightly given a well-deserved tight slap to such cat calls.

It’s a slap in the face of not just the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but the Election Commission of India (ECI) and just retired CEC Sunil Arora, for looking the other way and plotting an eight-phase election to ensure proper distribution of BJP’s army of Hindi speaking campaigners, despatched to Kolkata to conquer this secular citadel and firmly fix the saffron flag atop the Victoria Memorial. Not to mention the outgoing Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde who dismissed people’s rising concern over election campaigns turning out to be super spreaders and seeking reduction of the number of phases to reduce people’s ordeal.

But will the Prime Minister of India feel contrite for bringing the level of election campaign so low? No way. One can imagine that instead of feeling apologetic, he and his Man Friday, Home Minister Amit Shah must be seething with rage for their inability to capture the last anti-BJP bastion, even after seducing all the rejects of Trinamul Congress (TMC).

For the last three months and more, Amit Shah and his army and of course Modi himself, were so busy with strategizing to conquer at least one major state where the BJP has still no roots, that they paid no heed to the experts’ warning of the impending second wave of Covid. No doubt they had an eye on Tamil Nadu and Kerala as well and to give them their due they made some effort in Kerala as well but by and large they knew that at best they might win a seat or two in either of these two southern states. So, the best bet was Bengal, what with next door Assam already under their belt. After all they won Assam only by seducing over former Congress leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma, having earlier condemned them as corrupt.

If Sarma could work wonders in Assam, why couldn't Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari not repeat the same feat in Bengal? But as a Bengali friend and journalist pointed out, the way Modi and Shah went about maligning and ridiculing Mamata it hurt Bengali pride and they gave it back to the duo right and proper. No doubt Mamata would have won comfortably any which way, but I wonder whether her victory would have been so sweeping and overwhelming, had this been a normal election, sans the entire Central machinery including its investigating agencies, working round the clock targeting Mamata and her extended family.

In Assam, the BJP had a government and with it, its notorious muscle power, what with Himanta Biswa Sarma threatening publicly political opponents to teach a lesson and the Election Commission winking and looking again the other way. Modi had at his disposal, muscle, machinery and the communal card. Remember how Amit Shah repeatedly mentioned AIUDF Ajmal in his election rallies to warn Assamese Hindu voters of the threat of Muslims coming to power, if they failed to vote the BJP. My understanding is that had the referee allowed fair play and a level playing ground, victory in Assam too would not have been so decisive for the BJP.

In Bengal though, Mamata possessed both lung power and muscle power and overcame the challenge posed by BJP's Hindi speaking campaigners under the Madhya Pradesh leader and Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya. So, the lesson from this election is that to take on BJP and Modi, mere popularity won’t do. Otherwise Tejaswi Yadav should have won hands down in Bihar, going by the kind of response to his public rallies as against those by the Prime Minister in the same venue, just a few months back.

However, in all this excitement of having defeated the BJP at the hustings in Bengal, (Tamil Nadu and Kerala don’t count because even the servile media and it’s servile exit pollsters never put any bets on BJP and its allies in these two anti-BJP fortresses), the main issue should not be lost. The Prime Minister and his government busy whipping up communal Hindutva passions put their victory in the elections above the concern for people’s welfare and indulged in criminal negligence to the onslaught of the second wave of Covid, far more ferocious than the last one.

Will the Prime Minister and not merely the ‘system’ be held accountable for wilfully neglecting the deadly virus while putting all their energy, time and resources in securing power in one more non-BJP-ruled state ?

( The writer is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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