“Sarbanash hoye galo,” was what Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blurted out from Amphan war room as the cyclone battered southern districts of West Bengal on last Wednesday. It has been a week since Amphan left a trail of devastation in Bengal, but Mamata Banerjee still looks shaken.
A nervous Mamata Banerjee is an unusual sight in Indian politics. Ever since her surprise victory over CPM veteran late Somnath Chatterjee in her debut election in 1984, Mamata Banerjee has been fiercely combative. But the double disaster of Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan has ruffled her political mast.
Sample: her comment over protests in several parts of Bengal, including Kolkata. “I know you are inconvenienced. I can apologise to you, or you can cut off my head. We are also human, we are working very hard,” Mamata Banerjee told journalists seeking her response on angry people hitting the streets over inordinate delay in restoration of electricity and water supply.
Prior to Amphan, she had been ferociously responding to the Centre during the row over Covid-19 when central teams accused her government of fudging coronavirus data and hiding deaths suffered due to the pandemic.
Letter bombs were being hurled in a triangular political slugfest involving the Centre, the Bengal government and Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, who has, by the way, written a fresh letter to Mamata Banerjee asking her not to indulge in “blame game” and “politics”.
But when she took an aerial survey with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assess the devastation caused by Amphan, Mamata Banerjee told him that she had not seen such destruction in her life. The Centre was quick to announce advance support of Rs 1,000 crore.
The help from Centre appears to have made Mamata Banerjee more politically vulnerable.
Till now, she has been able to deflect the blame on to the Modi government and the legacy of the 35-year Left Front rule, for everything that goes wrong in Bengal.
Even during the Covid-19 outbreak, Mamata Banerjee was able to save her political constituency, thanks to the issue getting embroiled in a Hindu-Muslim debate after the Tablighi Jamaat episode in Delhi.
Mamata Banerjee appeared to mask her government’s ill preparedness, at least in the early weeks of the outbreak, under the political cover provided by Jamaat-bashing groups, including BJP leaders.
But cyclone Amphan has left her politically defenceless. She cannot blame the Centre for failing to keep the damage to the minimum or not supporting the state…