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Elections 2024: In the Battle Against Modi, Mahua is Mamata's Strongest Warrior

The public endorsement of Mahua’s candidature by the TMC supremo cleared the decks of all doubts and speculations.

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Opinion
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When Mamata Banerjee rolled out her first official election rally on 31 March, the dominant image that lingered on the mind of many was that of Didi firmly clutching the hands of Mahua Moitra, raising it in the air, and urging thousands who had crammed into a field to see their candidate.

A beaming Moitra was thrust into the spotlight by Banerjee who reaffirmed faith in her and exhorted the assembled crowd to ensure her return to Parliament from where she was unceremoniously and unjustly ousted by the Narendra Modi government.

Speaking to The Quint soon after the Krishnanagar rally, an exuberant and ecstatic Mahua said, “I am very happy at the confidence bestowed upon me by Didi. Mamata Di told me to improve on my last margin and go back to Parliament all guns blazing. I have worked for my constituency and I hope its people will embrace the Trinamool Congress (TMC) again."

The crowd chanted a new election slogan curated by Banerjee and dedicated it as the theme song of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal – Trinamool er garjan, birodhi der bishorjan (When the Trinamool Congress roars, the Opponent drowns).
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Choosing Mahua for an Election Run is Not 'Coincidental'

For about 45 minutes, the TMC supremo, still bearing the fading stitch marks on her forehead that she got from a fall in her house recently, fiercely moved up and down the ramp and launched an all-out offensive against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It may not have been merely a coincidence for Mamata to choose Mahua and Krishnanagar as the launch pad for her first poll campaign to match what Prime Minister Modi had done weeks earlier.

On 2 March, even before the poll schedule was announced and on the heels of the turbulent days of Sandeshkhali, the prime minister had trouped down to Kolkata for an early round of campaigning. West Bengal, till now, has eluded the saffron brigade but lies at the core of the BJP’s plan to be captured and won at all costs.

At a public rally, the prime minister evaded the cash-for-query issue in which allegations were levelled against Mahua but sharply criticised the TMC government for its failure to implement central schemes involving women’s welfare, safety and empowerment.

He also referred to the TMC’s Maa, Mati, Manush slogan and accused the party of gross misrule, causing immense suffering to the mothers, land, and people of Bengal. "The protesting sisters are demanding justice but the TMC government did not listen to them," PM Modi alleged, referring to Sandeshkhali.

This may largely explain Banerjee’s choice to begin the Lok Sabha campaign with Krishnanagar where she focused on Mahua — a democratically elected woman Member of Parliament (MP), unjustly persecuted and expelled from Parliament by the brute majority, now subjected to inquiries by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
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Mamata Slams the BJP's Use of CBI and ED on Mahua

On 23 March, Mahua's ancestral home at Alipore in South Kolkata was raided by the CBI and the ED for several hours.

She was in her hometown when the raid took place but the CBI and the ED landed up at the Krishnanagar TMC party office as well to inquire into the cash-for-query case. The Kolkata house raided by the CBI belonged to Mahua's parents.

Once again, the CBI and ED have issued summons to her for an appearance in connection with an FIR filed on alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations.

Three previous summons have been skipped by Mahua and legal experts say that it leaves her with the danger of facing coercive action.

In her speech, Mamata castigated the CBI for not only working at the behest of the ruling BJP, but also harassing the old parents of Mahua who had nothing to do with the investigations.

“They (BJP) have driven out the candidate whom you had elected to Parliament. You must answer this with a bigger mandate than last time,” the Bengal chief minister asserted to the crowd.

So, the critics who had deciphered Mamata's apparent silence when the cash-for-query episode picked pace as a sign of "distance" between the two should now be convinced that Mahua had patiently undertaken a political journey to set the record straight about her credibility.

After months and weeks of unrest, the moment finally came when the public endorsement of Mahua’s candidature by the party chief cleared the decks of all doubts and speculations.

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How Mahua Regained Mamata’s Confidence

When asked to explain what makes her hopeful for a return to Parliament, Mahua said:

"I do my groundwork. I have the highest utilisation of any MP funds. Every penny of the total amount given to me under the MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) has been disbursed except for Rs 64 lying in the account. Every assembly segment under my Lok Sabha seat has received roads, medical infrastructure, etc. I live in the most rural part of my constituency, so I am exposed to its daily needs. I do not wait for an election to go to the villages. This is something I do all year around, meeting both the workers and the cadres. Women are big beneficiaries of Mamata di’s scheme. They adore her and always bless our party."
Mahua Moitra to The Quint

Subhomoy Moitra, a political analyst from Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), concurred with the view that one would have thought that there was some "distance" between Mamata and Mahua after the cash-for-query fiasco. But the Krishnanagar rally seemed to have bridged that gap, bringing back Mahua into reckoning as a trusted lieutenant of the party.

Her oratory skills and powerful deliberations are not to be overlooked. In communist outfits like the Community Party of India or even the Communist Party of India (Marxist) of the yesteryears, such orators would be found in abundance, who as distinguished parliamentarians went on to become trendsetters.

"To some extent, Mahua Moitra, Derek O’Brien, Dr Amit Mitra, and Professor Saugata Roy seemed to partly conform to that legacy of powerful political orators. No reason why Mamata Banerjee should not back a parliamentarian like Mahua," added the ISI professor.

Having gotten a public endorsement of her candidature and blessed profusely by Didi, Mahua looked sprightly and inspired to take on the challenge in the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat. She had won this seat in 2019 with a margin of 63,000 votes.

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The SC/ST voters (members from the Matua community particularly) also form a large chunk of the electorate in several assembly segments under the Krishnanagar seat. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – having come into force on the eve of the polls – generated extreme confusion among the Matuas, who have been hoping to benefit from the enactment of the CAA.

But the procedural complications and implications have cast long shadows and uncertainty looms large over how this community would vote in the election.

(The writer is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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