On April 13, Mamata Banerjee chose the venue to mark her dissent against the Election Commission (EC). No war cries, no sloganeering, the West Bengal chief minister sat near the statue for several hours, apparently engrossed in painting. Senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders camped some distance away in solidarity.
A day before, when the EC barred her from campaigning for 24 hours for allegedly making provocative remarks during electioneering, a furious Mamata had taken to Twitter to challenge the order as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. But at the Gandhi statue, she was a picture of restraint. The EC had ticked Mamata off on two counts for allegedly making a community-specific speech at the temple town of Tarakeswar on April 5 and for allegedly inciting women in Cooch Behar on April 8 to take on CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel, if needed. This wasn’t Mamata’s first run-in with the Commission in this election. The EC had earlier declined to entertain her allegations of electoral malpractices in Boyal on voting day in Nandigram, from where she is contesting against former loyalist Suvendu Adhikari.
Fuelling Mamata’s ire was also the EC’s initial inaction on the allegedly inflammatory speeches made by Bengal BJP leaders Dilip Ghosh, Rahul Sinha and Sayantan Basu. To sociologist Prasanta Ray of Kolkata’s Presidency University, Mamata’s dharna at the Gandhi statue was a calculated move. “It appears to be an attempt to deflect the negativity that her belligerence and attacks on institutions such as the EC and CRPF may have created. Those who admire her would feel sympathetic about how she is almost singlehandedly taking on the BJP. This image of a lone fighter helps further endear Mamata to women voters,” says Ray.
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