It appears that India’s ruling dispensation, even in their greatest moment of triumph, has found new ways to take offence. At the receiving end of their post-victory recriminations were two women MPs from West Bengal – Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan. The young Tollywood starlets who were elected with record margins on Trinamool Congress (TMC) tickets, had allegedly violated ‘sanskaar’ by wearing jeans and taking selfies in front of the Parliament, some Hindu right-wing trolls insisted.To their credit, the two MPs hit back at the trolls. Chakraborty told BBC that she represented the youth and they’d be proud that she shared their sartorial sensibilities, and that the moral police ought to be more concerned with MPs with criminal cases against their names. Jahan noted that clothes were irrelevant and that her work would give the trolls a fitting response.‘New Age MPs’: Tweets Shut Down Trolls Shaming Mimi & NusratMukul Roy, Mamata, and the Winds of ChangePutting aside the intricacies of ‘proper’ parliamentary attire for a moment, let us call this ‘sartorial politics’ by its ‘real name’. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has suffered a most humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal. The BJP, having increased its vote share by nearly 23 percent in West Bengal, becoming the main opposition in the once-Communist state, has caused much distress to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had tried her best to keep the saffron at bay.Having won 18 out of 42 seats in Bengal, nothing would give the BJP a sense of complete ideological ascendance than winning the Vidhan Sabha elections in West Bengal and Kerala, two states they hadn’t been able to touch so thus far. And here is West Bengal for the taking.The sartorial tiff with Chakraborty and Jahan was just the BJP’s way of saying: the battle for 2021 has begun.Mukul Roy, one of the key architects of the BJP’s victory in West Bengal, did not mince words. The TMC, he said – and he would know, having been the party’s organiser-in-chief before a spectacular fallout with Mamata Banerjee – was a machinery that was built to oppose the CPI(M). With the CPI(M) no longer an important political force, Mamata Banerjee had nothing new to offer to the people of Bengal. Mukul Roy has since put his money where his mouth is, triggering defections by three TMC MLAs and 50 municipal councillors, with more reportedly on their way.Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan Get Unparliamentary Style Advice‘Mamata And Modi Are Cut From The Same Populist Cloth’Before writing Mamata Banerjee’s political epitaph as the BJP has clearly willed to do, it is worth reminding ourselves of something that has been strangely elided in the recent national political discourse on West Bengal. Banerjee, the BJP’s projections of her notwithstanding, is cut from the same populist cloth as Narendra Modi. For example, Modi’s defenders love to say that his welfare policies are community-blind.Anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of public administration in West Bengal over the last decade will note that Banerjee has showered the state with her own signature welfare programs – Kanyashree, Sabuj Saathi, rice-at-two-rupees per kg, to name just a few – and there is simply no evidence to show that the state’s Muslim community has benefited disproportionately from these schemes. The Hindutva Brigade may quickly jump in at this point to argue that her schemes are ridden with “leakages.”That Banerjee’s schemes have loopholes is undeniable. But one may draw the same charge against Mr Modi’s much-lauded ‘Swachh Bharat’ scheme, to name just one.Met With ‘Jai Shri Ram’ Chants, Mamata Says ‘Will Skin You Alive’Why Did Mamata Become Second To Modi?Why then did Banerjee turn up distinctly second to Modi in this battle of authoritarian populists? I believe that in the final analysis it was the extraordinary political energy that Modi was able to channel into his campaign that made a critical difference. There was the organisational capital contributed by the BJP’s allied Sangh Parivar functionaries, adroitly directed by Amit Shah, which saw party offices spring up all over the state.The Big Money that the party was able to mobilise, domestically as well as internationally, also signalled its patronage chops. In sum, the BJP had managed to consolidate itself as a serious brand in West Bengal’s political marketplace. On the other hand, with Mukul Roy’s departure from the TMC in November 2017, Mamata Didi found herself bearing the mantle of being both the public face of the TMC campaign and its chief organiser, and with only a sliver of the resources Mr Modi had mobilised for his campaign. Yes, she still attracted crowds at her feisty rallies, but a feeling gnawed away that this was akin to a contest between a global retail powerhouse and a local grocery store.Elections 2019: Mamata Banerjee Reshuffles West Bengal CabinetChoosing Mimi & Nusrat Shows That Mamata’s Populist Instincts Are Still AliveMamata Banerjee, being a consummate politician, must have felt the energy gap. Her choice of Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan as candidates from the critical Jadavpur and Basirhat constituencies suggests that her populist instincts are still intact. The choice of Chakraborty was particularly controversial because it did not conform to any obvious electoral arithmetic.It was redolent with symbolism, the raw material with which the best populists work. Jadavpur was the constituency where Banerjee started her own political journey in 1984 defeating the late Somnath Chatterjee, a then CPI(M) stalwart, and arguably one of India’s greatest parliamentarians. Those watching closely will also recognise a bit of ‘Didi’ in Mimi Chakraborty’s engaging outspokenness.Chakraborty appears to be a younger and glamourised version of Banerjee. Jahan is no pushover either.Should Mamata Take A Backseat And Put Up A New Public Face In Bengal?In the aftermath of the West Bengal elections which saw the TMC being ‘saved’ by a narrow margin, Banerjee announced that she had tendered her resignation but it was not accepted by her colleagues. She also stated that she would like to devote more time to the party organisation than government work.It seems remarkable that a state that tolerated the Left Front for at least two additional decades after its expiry date has tired of Mamata in less than a decade. But such are the ways of a politics driven by the 24/7 news cycle. The party needs a new public face with Banerjee driving the organisation from behind. Her resigning as chief minister is premature at this stage, but is an idea that she and the party must grow into in the coming days. Which leaves us with the hitherto unthinkable: ‘Modi vs Mimi’ in 2021?(Subhasish Ray is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. He tweets @subhasish_ray75. 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.) We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.