It has been long since Mamata Banerjee last sat on a dharna, 13 years to be precise, but memories of her historic 26-day fast to protest against the Tata Nano plant in Singur are still fresh in people’s minds.
After Singur dharna, Mamata had registered landslide victories in Assembly elections on the back of her strong protests and mobilized agitations. For instance, Mamata’s comeback in 2011 West Benegal elections against the long-ruling Left Party government, rode on the successes of the anti-land acquisition movements in Nandigram and Singur in 2006, albeit with tacit Maoist backing at play.
Therefore, her impromptu and overnight strike at the same ground (Metro Channel in Esplanade area) in Kolkata on Sunday night came as little surprise before of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where in Mamata Banerjee is spearheading the ‘mahagathbandhan‘.
In January 2007, Mamata Banerjee was quick to fuel the Nandigram issue in Benegal. The movement gained momentum and culminated in the killing of 14 poor farmers in police firing which further helped Mamata in mobilizing well-known writers, artists, poets and activists including, Mahasweta Devi, Aparna Sen and Medha Patkar against the forceful land acquisition in WB.
Similarly, in 2008 at Singur, Mamata played the vital role of a farmers’ rights crusader while protesting against Tata Motor’s “forceful” land acquisition for the Nano project at Singur. Mamata Banerjee went on to stage an indefinite hunger strike — which lasted 26 days — to force Ratan Tata to withdraw his dream project Tata Motors for Nano Car in October 2008.
However, despite her tendency to lock horns with the Central administration, Mamata Banerjee has been particularly aggressive with the Narendra Modi-led government as the elections approach. She had organised the mega Opposition rally in Kolkata on 19 January 2019 which was attended by leaders such as former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, among others.
Thereafter, Mamata Banerjee was accused of “throttling” democracy when BJP chief Amit Shah’s helicopter was refused permission to land in West Bengal’s Malda. Later, Shah addressed a rally in the region but, Mamata’s party Trinamool Congress (TMC) clashed with BJP workers leading to vandalism.
Recently, the West Bengal administration also denied permission to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s helicopter to land in the state ahead of his rally in the South Dinapur district.
However, with the Opposition’s backing this time, Mamata Banerjee seems determined in her protest route to take on the Naredera Modi government. Though it remains to be seen if she would be able to come out victorious in this war, which Mamata claims is not political but an exercise to ‘save the Constitution’.