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Friday, April 16, 2021

Will Mamata Banerjee’s ankle injury turn tides in the Bengal elections?

Mamata alleged that this was a conspiracy against her as there were no police officers around when she was attacked while campaigning in Nandigram. But this incident might be a boon for the TMC in the upcoming elections.

The Bengal Assembly Elections 2021 is one of the most important state elections this year. Not only has Mamata Banerjee been one of the biggest critics of the Modi government. The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections saw her emerge as the leader of the so-called third front which did not survive the Modi wave but planted her as a worthy opponent in a horizon where there seemed to be no opposition at all. And this week has been as dramatic as it can get. It went from Mamata Banerjee’s Chandi Path to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying that she “should stick to reciting kalma” to the CM hurting her ankle at Nandigram, her constituency and accusing a larger conspiracy working against her. But will Mamata’s ankle injury heavily cost the BJP?

What happened on Wednesday?

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in Nandigram and had just filed her nomination on Wednesday. She was at the Birulia Anchal Market when, according to Banerjee, around four to five men pushed her. And not just that. She also said that they tried to close the door on her foot which caused her ankle injury. Trinamool MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said that she had also suffered injuries to her waist when the car door was closed on her.

In a video that had gone viral, the Chief Minister is seen speaking to the members of the press. She is seen pointing at her leg and saying that it’s visible how her ankle was swelling up. One reporter repeatedly asks her if this was a planned attack and Didi replies that it was definitely a conspiracy as there were no police officers around her.

She was hurried to the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata from where she was released on Friday.

No conspiracy?

The special observer team of Vivek Dubey and Ajay Nayak submitted their report to the Election Commission on Saturday. They have found that the incident was a mere accident and not a planned coordinated attack like the Trinamool Congress has been claiming.

This is not the first report that has gone to the EC. West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay had submitted a report to the commission as well which said that a car door was slammed on Mamata Banerjee‘s leg while she was campaigning in Nandigram. The EC called his report vague and asked for further clarification as they felt that his report lacked crucial details and had no evidence.

But when Didi came out of the hospital on Friday in a wheelchair, Bengal sympathised with her. Banerjee has always had the image of a fighter — that too someone who has come up from the streets. Not the high-class bungalows of New Alipore and Park Street but from the filthiest slums where the erstwhile leaders would only step into when they were asking for votes. The two-time Chief Minister has also maintained her down-to-earth image — she wears a pair of blue and white rubber chappals, rides a modest car mostly, does not hesitate to walk down among the masses and solve any issue that’s in front of her (we have seen that during the lockdown). She is also remembered for being the fighter from her Congress days — Banerjee was hospitalised for days after being hurt ina riot in Kolkata. Her photo from that day has become iconic. To see such a politician campaign from her wheelchair is bound to evoke sympathy. No matter how hard the BJP and the left try to prove it a scam.

Didi has not left any stone unturned to make use of an opportunity like this. She has been seen talking about how she feared that she might get killed for speaking up against the Modi government. This might just change the tides in this polarised election.

Her decision to contest from the Nandigram seat which belonged to Trinamool heavyweight and now BJP leader Shubhendu Adhikary had already made ripples in the already agitated political scene of the state. Now the ‘Didi attacked’ scenario makes it even hard for the opposition to counter. Yes, they have tried to call her out and there have been video accounts of apparent onlookers who said no such thing as Banerjee claims had happened were put up on BJP’s Twitter handle. But that doesn’t quite counter the sentiment of an incumbent CM being attacked. The TMC’s version is that there were outsiders in the mob who cased her harm — they obviously do not want to say that the people of her own constituency tried to ‘murder’ her. Especially when Abhikary is playing the Bhumiputra card because he has a voter card from the same constituency.

Where does Congress stand?

The BJP and Left parties have called her out and called this incident nothing but a stunt to garner sympathy. But where does Congress stand? While the top leadership of the Congress has been quiet on the issue, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh tweeted, “Disgusted to read of the attack on West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Violence has no place in politics and civilized society. I wish her a speedy recovery. Those responsible must be put behind bars.” Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress’s senior leader Ashok Gehlot tweeted his sympathy as well, “The news is distressing that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee ji was pushed to her car by some miscreants and she has been injured. I wish her a speedy recovery. Those behind this must be caught and punished.”

But Bengal Congress was not so sympathetic towards her for obvious reasons. “She planned this drama before the election after sensing difficulties in Nandigram. She is not only a Chief Minister but a ‘police mantri’ too. Can you believe that there was no police with the ‘police mantri’?” Congress’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Chowdhury told news agency ANI.

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