Mamata Banerjee, one of the most astute politicians in the country today, is gunning for the country's top post -- nothing less. The sudden escalation in the Saradha ponzi scam investigation could have shone uneasy spotlight on her government had she not bent the arrows directed at her in one fell swoop on Sunday.
The dramatic events of Sunday evening speak volumes of the ability of Bengal's 'Lady of Fire' to turn a booby trap into a launch pad. Her path maybe strewn with pitfalls but the great political imagination she displayed in turning a hopeless situation into a unique advantage is characteristic of brand Mamata.
Political brinkmanship has always been the name of her game and she's managed to land safely each time. The arrest of CBI officers who turned up to question the city police chief was obviously an unprecedented escalation in the showdown. It remains to be seen how the whole saga will play out.
If the Act I of her 'plot for Delhi' was the mega rally in Kolkata last month in which 23 Opposition leaders took part, the Act II unfolded on Sunday.
There's something that differentiates Mamata Banerjee from other, more grounded politicians of the time. Let's consider this scenario. If she hadn't done what she did on Sunday evening, what would have been the outcome?
Obviously, the questioning of Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar by the CBI would have been a big political setback for Mamata. She and her close inner circle have been fighting off allegations that the Saradha ponzi scam can be traced to Trinamool Congress leaders.
Moreover, the Kolkata police chief has himself been in the crosshairs of the CBI over his alleged role in derailing the Saradha and Rose valley scams. Rajeev Kumar had headed the special investigation team that probed the Saradha and Rose Valley scams under Mamata's watch until the Supreme Court directed the CBI to take up the case in 2014.
Letting the CBI take its own course would have been suicidal for Mamata. It would have allowed the BJP to sharpen the attack on her and lent credence to allegations that her government and party were tainted. The brand Mamata would have taken a serious beating just ahead of the general elections.
However, by pulling off a spectacular offensive on Sunday, Mamata has seemingly turned the tables on her foes at the centre. Apart from deflecting the uneasy focus of the CBI from her and her government, she also easily took perch on a moral high ground. Much of the discourse right now is hovering over the centre's highhandedness and the threat to the federal principles.
Waiting for a big opportunity
You can be positively certain that the outcome would have been quite different if the same scenario had unfolded in any other state capital in the country. Mamata was certainly lying up for a great opportunity. She couldn't have made the CBI do what it did yesterday but once they did what they did, there was no stopping her from taking full advantage of it.
The 2019 contest is all about Narendra Modi versus the rest. While a whole spectrum of regional parties will grab a piece of the anti-Modi pie, the Congress would just manage to stand taller than them all
Mamata knows that a great political prize is waiting for the smartest of the lot after 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Narendra Modi and the BJP are still the frontrunners, but if the verdict is fractured and there's a hung parliament, she's got a formidable chance to become the country's next prime minister.
If the Act I of her 'plot for Delhi' was the mega rally in Kolkata last month in which 23 Opposition leaders took part, the Act II unfolded on Sunday. The 2019 contest is all about Narendra Modi versus the rest. While a whole spectrum of regional parties will grab a piece of the anti-Modi pie, the Congress would just manage to stand taller than them all.
When the anti-Modi rainbow alliance sits down to choose a leader, Didi wants that to be her, no one else. Sunday's high voltage happenings in Kolkata would stand her in good stead. She's has easily ensconced herself as the boldest anti-Modi leader in the country.