Mamata Banerjee today flagged off her bid for a third term as the Chief Minister of West Bengal with a virtual rally at a time when she is facing a most tangible political rival in the state, the BJP. Led by Amit Shah, the BJP has already stepped up a multi-pronged attack on the ruling Trinamool Congress. He held a virtual rally on Bengal on 14 June. But team Mamata Banerjee has a question for BJP that the party has no answer to: who is BJP's answer to Didi, who is their chief minister candidate.
At this pandemic-enforced virtual rally on a date the Trinamool marks as Martyrs' Day, Mamata Banerjee made a dramatic promise -- that on July 21 next year, her party will hold its biggest rally ever to celebrate its victory in Assembly polls. She labeled the BJP an outsider and called for revenge.
"Muscle power is being used all the time. People are scared to speak up. But I am not. I have fought in the face of guns and bullets. Remember, a wounded tiger is more dangerous than a dead one. My request for my party workers -- on May 21, we will take revenge and ensure that the BJP loses its security deposit in the elections and that Bengal is ruled by Bengal and not outsiders," Ms Banerjee said.
Ms Banerjee has travelled far since 2011, when she ousted the CPM regime in Bengal. Her slogan then was "badla noy, bodol chai" or "not revenge, we want change". Now, there is no hesitation about seeking revenge against the BJP for "threatening democracy and the country's federal structure".
"Next time she addresses her July 21 rally, she will not be doing that as the chief minister," BJP's Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh had mocked Mamata Banerjee before the rally. Later, more insults were hurled. "We will give her (Mamata) permission for the rally. But not even 21 people will attend her July 21 rally next year. In fact, there will be no rally, only a street corner meeting," he said.
The Trinamool-BJP acrimony is a function of the high-stakes 2021 Assembly polls. Mamata Banerjee is determined to defend her turf. The BJP is seeking new ground and attacking her on all possible counts. Covid and cyclone relief corruption are the latest issues that state Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, too, has joined.
Not that Mamata Banerjee is giving any quarter. Reacting to claims of deteriorating law and order situation in Bengal, she has pointed a finger at the Vikas Dubey incident in Uttar Pradesh. "Even labelling the situation jungle raj is not good enough," she said.
But Trinamool has a surprise ace up its sleeve and a question for the BJP straight out of the movies: Trinamool has Mamata. And BJP? (Mere paas gari hai, bangla hai, paisa hai. Tumhare pass kya hai? Mere pas maa hai)
"Let the BJP say who is their substitute for Mamata Banerjee. Then we will worry about a challenge from that party," said Subrata Mukherjee, panchayat minister and Mamata's mentor since their Congress days.
The Bengal BJP warhorse is state chief Dilip Ghosh. But with no name being formally declared as a chief ministerial candidate, chatter is inevitable about the probables. Tongues wagged over a photo with Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, Asansol MP Babul Supriyo and Raiganj MP Debasree Chowdhury in one frame after they met Amit Shah on Monday.
If Mamata Banerjee even remotely threatened, she did not let it slip. Wrapping up her virtual rally, her rallying cry was, "Hum hain na?"