Can advocates of'united-front' rally around Mamata Banerjee?
The Daily Guardian|January 29, 2022
Mamata Banerjee has to dispel the perception of being a minority appeaser, autocratic and intolerant. Above all, she must reach out to Rahuland Kejriwal, seek their support, and offer them significant roles befitting their stature. But, will she?
SURENDRA KUMAR

On the battlefield, often, more than the size of the army and the weaponry, it's the courage, smart strategy, and the inspiring leadership that carries the day. Bold leaders have, so many times in history, snatched victory out of the teeth of defeat.

In the state elections in West Bengal in May 2021, Mamata Banerjee vindicated this truism. Pitted against, arguably, the most popular Prime Minister of his time, with his enviable oratory and boundless energy, assisted by a clever, methodical and meticulous organizer in Amit Shah, supported by the extensive spadework on the ground by the RSS plus inexhaustible resources and might of the Central govt, undaunted Mamata, campaigned on a wheelchair with her broken leg, invoking the war cry of 'khela hobe' inflicted a crushing defeat on the seemingly invincible ModiShah duo. She demolished the media myth that she was a spent force incapable of winning for the third time. Her victory was the stuff that folkloric is made of.

The opposition parties, harbouring an ambition to defeat the BJP have a template and a Mascot to emulate. If they sink their differences, swallow their egos, take stock of the ground realities and accept the leadership based on: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, they stand a chance to contain and counter the BJP.

Naveen Patnaik, the longest-serving Chief Minister of Odisha, serving his 5th consecutive term, is a veteran politician; he hasn't lost an election. His Biju Janata Dal won 20 out of 21 Parliamentary seats in 2014 when Modi opened his inning in Delhi. But in 2019, this tally came down to 12 seats. He has served as the Minister of Mines in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's cabinet. He introduced the reservation of 50% seats for women in Panchayat and gave 33% tickets to women for the last Lok Sabha election. His initiative: Mission Shakti has helped several lakhs selfhelp group women in running their small enterprises.

While the economy of the state has grown several folds and per capita income has also increased, several parts of Odisha are still reeling under extreme poverty.

The influence of 76-year-old Patnaik, who speaks broken Oriya with text written in Roman script, is largely confined to Odisha.

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