Not even a month has passed since Mamata Banerjee secured an emphatic victory over the BJP in the West Bengal assembly elections, her party leaders are already promoting her as the next Prime Minister of India. Trinamool figureheads on social media are trending the hashtag #BengaliPrimeMinister on Twitter to put forth Didi’s name as the next Prime Ministerial candidate.
Trinankur Bhattacharjee, the state president of Trinamool Chhatraparishad, was among those who participated in the hashtag.
Women safety, security & empowerment are our priorities. Hence we want @MamataOfficial to lead our country.— Trinankur Bhattacharjee (@TrinankurWBTMCP) May 31, 2021
We want to implement schemes like Kanyashree, Rupashree, Saboojsathi, Swasthyasathi & Khadyasathi across India. So we want Didi to be the PM.#BengaliPrimeMinister pic.twitter.com/HokeRBwvZc
Spokespersons of the party participated in the Twitter trend as well.
Bengal, the land known for its pivotal role in social, cultural and political renaissance, will once again show the way to India.— Sudip Raha (@aitcsudip) May 31, 2021
Fellow countrymen, gear up for your next #BengaliPrimeMinister pic.twitter.com/viq9ydNJwB
There are important takeaways for opposition parties from Banerjee’s early moves with three years still remaining in Prime Minister Modi’s second term. Clearly, she is not in the mood to waste time after securing a healthy victory.
More regional chauvinism
Mamata Banerjee went all in with the regional chauvinism card in the assembly elections. Although it is unclear the extent to which it benefited the party, Banerjee appears to believe it significantly contributed to the results.
With Lok Sabha Elections in 2024, it appears that Trinamool Congress believes the party will be able to secure more seats than it did in 2019 by projecting a Bengali Prime Minister, consistent with the ‘Bohiragoto’ narrative.
But it is unclear how she will reconcile her national aspirations with the ‘Bohiragoto’ narrative. It does not appear sensible to engage in regionalism while harbouring intentions to play a greater role in national politics.
Nonetheless, the idea of a Bengali Prime Minister might strengthen her hand in West Bengal itself in 2024.
Mamata Banerjee is pitching herself as the front in line among rivals
The trend is also geared as much towards opposition leaders from other parties as it is against Narendra Modi. In the lead up to 2019, there was great uncertainty regarding who will be elected the Prime Minister should the Mahagathbandhan manage to secure power.
Mamata Banerjee wishes to sweep away her rivals from other parties in the possible grand alliance while the wind is still in her favour. And truly, there are very leaders from other parties who could match her stature.
Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray cannot win Maharashtra on their own. Arvind Kejriwal is limited to the national capital which has a very small population compared to major states. Ashok Gehlot, Amarinder Singh and others from the Congress party will not take a leap over the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar. That leaves Banerjee with very few credible contenders.
However, in order to ensure her candidature, she is attempting to brush aside any opposition that might arise.
Not so good news for Rahul Gandhi
Undeniably, it is bad news for Rahul Gandhi. The Congress party would have wanted to create a grand alliance with itself at the center but opposition parties may not be willing to take that route. Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate will certainly not be acceptable to other parties given how poorly he has fared in one on one contests against Narendra Modi.
Even in 2019, it was clear that although Rahul Gandhi wanted to be the PM candidate, other parties did not consent. With that in mind, Banerjee is attempting to emerge as the compromise candidate.
Even so, for the BJP to lose in 2024, the Congress party has to secure around 100 seats at the very least. Under such circumstances, it will be interesting to see how other parties sideline the party with the second highest seats.
Mamata Banerjee may spark an infighting
Banerjee could very well spark an infighting with her early moves for 2024. Infighting is the major cause for concern in any such grand alliance as many parties are traditionally rivals of each other. For instance, the Mayawati-Akhilesh alliance could not dent BJP’s chances as their traditional vote-banks do not see each other in good light.
Similarly, Banerjee’s candidature as Prime Minister is sure to irk the Left Front who may then hesitate to throw their weight behind the alliance. The Congress party itself may develop a cold feet as it would want Rahul Gandhi to succeed Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
Will Mamata Banerjee be acceptable nationally?
The biggest concern for Mamata Banerjee is the fact that she has practically no base outside West Bengal. Even if she wins all the seats, which appears impossible, the maximum she could win is 44 seats. Outside of West Bengal, even among Bengalis, she does not enjoy great popularity.
Bengalis in North East do not vote along the same lines as those in West Bengal. Therefore, the BJP is likely to sweep Bengali Hindu votes in Tripura and Assam. Combined with her ‘Bohiragoto’ narrative, it makes it immensely difficult for Banerjee to expand her voter-base.
Given such constraints, Banerjee may well have national ambitions but it is an uphill task henceforth.