Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee – two different stories with the same cautionary political message
Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee, both these leaders have been two time Chief Minister of their respective states (it does not matter whether the term lasts for 13 days or 49 days or for all 5 years). Their rise to power, the subsequent downfall and the prospect of falling into political oblivion; makes for an interesting case study for any political researcher or enthusiast.
Mamata Banerjee rose to power in 2011 by surprising one and all when she increased her tally from a mere 30 seats in 2006 to 184 in 2011. That was a staggering increase in the number of seats by over six times! She increased her tally in 2016 to 211 seats out of 294, that’s over a 2/3rd majority in a state which has the 2nd largest assembly seats among the Indian states.
Arvind Kejriwal had no less of a dream run in politics since his debut in Delhi politics. Though Mamata Banerjee had to struggle for years in the opposition, Arvind Kejriwal formed the government in his maiden election after winning 28 out of 70 seats in 2013, with the support of Congress party who had 8 seats. He resigned soon after to contest 2014 general election but stormed back to power with an unprecedented 67 seats out 70 in 2015 Delhi assembly elections.
You see these kind of results when there is massive anger against the ruling party and much of their voters shift their preferences. There was massive anger against the more than 3 decade old rule of Left in Bengal and similarly there was strong anti-incumbency against the 15 year Congress rule in Delhi and 10 year long rule in the Center.
Such a massive swing indicates that the voters were disappointed by the prolonged rule of the ruling party and were looking for someone who will change the status quo. In Bengal, the status quo was the massive violence and intimidation of the political opponents while in Delhi, the status quo was the rampant corruption that was prevalent in the state and the country.
However, as it turned out both these leaders who came on the plank of change and hope, rather than changing the system, co-opted the system and became a part of it themselves, thereby betraying their own voters. Mamata Banerjee and the TMC became much more brutal than the left ever was. She even openly played the politics of minority appeasement to further vitiate the atmosphere of violence and injustice. Same way, Arvind Kejriwal rather than coming good on his promises of action on the corruption cases, many of which he himself had raised in the past, openly sold the tickets in elections, kept on blaming the central govt. for his lack of competence and played the same abhorrent congress politics of caste, religion and personal attacks.
Both of them completely betrayed the mandate of their voters and thus are now staring at a political rout and complete decimation. The situation in Delhi, where BJP has always been a strong force, has become so dire for Arvind Kejriwal and his party that within a span of 6-7 years, he has gone on to the extent of begging for an alliance with the same party against which he fought and termed it as the root of corruption in India. But even that party which itself had scored a zero in the last assembly elections is unwilling to join hands with him, such has been the fall from grace for the once ‘crusader against corruption’.
Situation has been no better for Mamata Banerjee this time around. She won 2016 assembly elections due to lack of credible and strong opposition, and wholesale violence. But within 3 years of that stupendous victory, she is seeing a massive anger against her and her party. A leader who was once regarded as the ‘Durga’ of Bengal or who commanded immense respect from the general public, has been reduced to a mere caricature of herself in a span of less than 8 years since her rise to power, so much so that she is being forced to resort to foreign campaigners, deplorable personal attacks and soft separatist card of ‘Regional Pride’ in these elections along with the old methods of massive violence and intimidation.
She is resorting to the same old ways of Left of violence, intimidation and rigging to try and protect her turf. At a time when political violence has become an old memory for most of the states and their citizens, Bengal stands out as a ‘sore thumb’ along with a few other states. A Bengal which has already rejected this kind of politics in 2011 will not accept it again in 2019.
There is a strong possibility that both these leaders will get ousted in the next assembly elections and will be erased from the public memory for ever. And both of them brought it upon themselves by playing with the feelings and emotions of the people. Indians tend to be generous and easily forgive for the mistakes and failed promises but they don’t take it lightly to betrayal and dashed hopes.
Budding politicians and political commentators can learn a lot from these two tales of two leaders belonging to two different states separated by thousands of kilometers which are as different as black and white in their character and culture but belong to this great civilization called India. They are a classic example of fall from the top in the political world.