Mamata Banerjee is mercurial and maverick. This has been her strength in politics. She is also a street fighter. That is how she ended the Left in its bastion. She is confrontational and fights all her rivals.
Covid-19 is one tough enemy that seems to testing her governance skills on all fronts. Finding it difficult to tame the novel coronavirus spread, Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister, has set a template to deflect blame and attention: target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Modi government.
Mamata Banerjee was evidently late in realising that the coronavirus outbreak was a matter that concerned not only the healthcare infrastructure but the core issue of governance. On March 4, when India saw an outbreak happening, Mamata Banerjee thought it was being played up “in an effort to make people forget the incidents [riots] of Delhi”.
There has been intense exchange between the Modi government and the Mamata government over Covid-19. During the last videoconference between PM Modi and chief ministers, Mamata Banerjee complained that her government was being politically targeted.
The Centre too played its part in shooting off a barrage of letters to the Mamata government, each complaining that Covid-19 guidelines were not being followed in Bengal.
Ground reports from Bengal indicated that the complaints were not misplaced or simple political misgivings of a central government ruled by TMC’s principal state rival. But similar letters were not sent to Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh.
The political fight between the Modi government and Mamata government intensified after the Tablighi Jamaat incident. The Centre wanted strict contact tracing for every participant of the markaz event held in Delhi in March.
The BJP accused the Mamata government of not following the coronavirus trails of Tablighi Jamaat members for political reasons. The critics linked it with next year’s Bengal election. The Tablighi Jamaat incident had taken a communal tinge with many BJP-ruled states blaming the Delhi event for the sudden spike in the Covid-19 numbers in their areas. Speculation had it that Mamata Banerjee had asked her officers not to contact trace the Tablighi Jamaat trail. TMC leaders dismissed this charge.
But the incident led to a face-off between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Mamata Banerjee, both going for one another’s jugular in their dispatches and public outbursts.
After Mamata Banerjee dismissed a question on Tablighi Jamaat as “communal…