She chose north Bengal for the start of her party’s election campaign. And on Tuesday, she travelled to north Bengal again to wind up the campaign.
Over 56 days, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed nearly 200 public meetings in as many assembly constituencies. Speaking at her last campaign rally in Dinhata, she announced: “We have already won the elections. The question is: by how great a margin?”
While rival parties have turned to heavyweights and orators — Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh came for the BJP, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for the Congress, Sitaram Yechury and Mohammad Salim for the Left — the TMC has banked on Banerjee, and Banerjee alone. Because, as she put it, “we decided we will contest this election alone, without support from any other quarter”.
A leader close to Banerjee said, “It was clear she would be our star campaigner. In many ways, she is the party. Until now, she has addressed almost 200 meetings.”
Before the rally at Dinhata, the first on the last day of campaigning, Banerjee was introduced as the “party supremo”, “Banglar Agni Kanya” (Bengal’s fire goddess), “Amader Debi” (Our goddess), “Amader Netri” (Our leader).
TMC supporters who watched her arrive in a helicopter surged forward as she began speaking: “This is the last day of campaigning, I know that these elections have been really long and lives of common people have been affected. But at the end of this, we will come out victorious. We have already won. It’s just a question of how great a margin. I have come here to seek your blessings. You know the work I have done for the state despite the difficulties. Vote for me and I will continue to work for you.”
In the heat, a woman collapsed. Banerjee stopped her address: “There are ambulances here, doctors here. Please pick her up slowly… You there, pick her up gently. What are you doing? Someone give her water.”
She then picked up a bottle of water meant for her and threw it in the direction of the woman. A great roar went up and people cheered. Banerjee continued: “We care for you. We want to give you what you want. Tell me your demands, I will fulfil them.”
The campaign and its frantic nature, say her admirers, have raised her stature manifold. Journalist-turned-politician Prabir Ghosal, who is the TMC candidate from Konnagar in Hooghly, said: “I have been a journalist for three decades and I have known Mamata Banerjee for as many years. Never have I witnessed a campaign such as this. No other politician could have managed a campaign like this. It seemed impossible. But she’s done it.”
A party leader, also a minister, went a step further: “What is Trinamool Congress? It’s basically a solar system of bits and pieces, and there’s Mamata Banerjee at the centre. Does she have flaws? Yes, definitely. But she is our leader, and she is the party.”