In world there are two types of people. There are some who work best in friendly condition and some who reach their full potential when the chips are down. Chief Minister of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee definitely belongs to the second group. A proverbial underdog, she thrived in adversity to become the ultimate champion of hardworking people in Bengal. But what to do when you are the front runner and in position of power? There are no demons to fight, nobody to point figure at. It is a problem which Arvind Kejriwal faced during his 49 days rule in Delhi. His solution was to play the martyr card by resigning. Mamata Banerjee being in the business of politics for much longer time has manufactured an unlikely opponent to project herself as a victim. She has taken on the constitutional authority of Election Commission virtually declaring a turf war for supremacy.
As it was expected, Election Commission (EC) has grounded 7 officials (5SP,1 DM and 1 ADM) for partisan behaviour in the run up to polls. EC has made it clear to the principal secretary of the state that these officials can’t be used for any poll related matter. This has not gone down well with the mercurial Chief Minister of Bengal. In an open dare to Election Commission, she has said that none of the officials will be allowed to transfer. She has alleged EC, a constitutional body of institutional bias to help the two major national parties. She has challenged the supremacy of Election Commission daring them to arrest her if they wish to. In a pointed reference to poll schedule, she said that places like Murshidabad and West Midnapore have separate dates to facilitate rigging by Congress. The officials deemed biased by EC have been hailed as assets of the state government by didi. By virtually throwing a gauntlet, she said that if by any chance law and order is hampered the poll panel has to take responsibility for it.
EC’s tough stance
This hostile behaviour of the state government has not gone down well with Election Commission. If the state doesn’t comply with their orders by today, Tuesday a constitutional crisis may evolve. Sources say Election Commission may even postpone or cancel elections in parts of Bengal. According to article 324 (1) of Indian constitution, EC has virtually absolute powers regarding conduct of polls. From the time of notification of election to completion of same, all government machinery effectively works under the ambit of the commission. Even the courts can’t interfere in the process. Mamata Banerjee thus by picking up a bone with EC has landed herself in an incredibly sticky wicket when it comes to matter of legality and constitutionality. EC in their official version has still been pretty restraint. They have promised to look after the matter by inspecting video recordings and newspaper clippings.
Didi’s real game plan
3 years in power, anti-incumbency has started to plague Mamata government especially in urban areas. In rural pockets it still rules the roost but disillusionment with shortage of investment is creeping in cities and towns. This coupled with lack of alliance with Congress and increase support for BJP means didi may not get 30 + seats she aspires. Thus she needs an emotive issue, which will override everything else and unite the voters to overwhelmingly support TMC. Bashing the office of Election Commissioner is largely a ploy to achieve that goal. She claims that she has been victimised for being a woman. Even if she has to back down on her stance later (she probably will), didi can always say that she did it for the larger interest of nation. At this moment though, uncertainty looms in Bengal with EC-didi clash reaching a political flash point.