Mamata is keen to repeat giant killing act in Goa; sports persons are gathering around her

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

West Bengal’s redoubtable chief minister Mamata Banerjee who led her party, the All India Trinamool Congress, to a resounding victory over BJP in the state’s assembly elections a few months ago, is now all set to storm the BJP bastion in Goa. Her fiery speeches and no holds barred tactics have given the BJP behemoth a tough time and she is in a fighting mood again as she steps onto the political battlefield with all guns blazing.

The party morale is at an all time high and in Bengal leaders are leaving BJP and joining Mamata. The TMC is hoping to become the main opposition to the BJP in Goa.

“BJP’s dadagiri must stop,” she said while on her maiden visit to Goa. Justifying her party’s entry into Goa politics, she said that Congress had not played the role of a responsible opposition and had compromised with the BJP. She blamed the Congress’ weakness which resulted in making Modi strong. “We never surrender and we never compromise on our beliefs. We do not divide people according to religion. TMC stands for Temple, Masjid and Church,” she said.

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In her political life Mamata has seen many highs and lows. Like many other leaders she too has been in the thick of controversy involving allegations of scams and financial irregularities. Another allegation frequently levelled against her is that of minority appeasement. But her supporters say: “Didi works for everyone. She doesn’t discriminate between Hindus and Muslims.”

Throughout everything, she has assiduously stuck to her image of being a simple Bengali lady with no outward signs of vanity or luxury. Her trademark is her simple white sari and pair rubber slippers which she wears at all the time. In September 2021, TIME magazine published its annual list of ‘The 100 Most Influential People of 2021’ and the list included Mamata Banerjee.

One unusual aspect of her functioning is that she has been able to gain the trust of several sportspersons. Manoj Tiwary who represented India in a dozen ODI matches and played for Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab won the elections with a TMC ticket and he has been appointed Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports.

Famous former footballer Prasun Banerjee, former captain of India who has played more than 100 matches for India, is a Member of Parliament and another football international Bidesh Bose is an MLA. Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia contested two elections on a TMC ticket but later quit the party. The latest to join TMC is tennis star Leander Paes.

Regarded as one of the greatest tennis players in doubles, he holds the record for the most doubles wins in the history of the Davis Cup. Besides, Paes has also won eight men’s doubles and ten mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. So he is certainly a big catch for TMC as it heads for battleground Goa. “Now I have retired from tennis. I want to serve the people through the vehicle of politics and to make a difference to the country. Didi (Mamata Banerjee) is a true champion,” Paes said.
No doubt it will take more than glamorous names from sports and the film industry (actress Nafisa Ali also joined TMC along with Paes) to overthrow BJP, but they might make a dent in the BJP armour. Recently Mamata announced on Twitter:
“As I prepare for my maiden visit to Goa on 28th Oct, I call upon all individuals, organizations, and political parties to join forces to defeat the BJP and their divisive agenda. The people of Goa have suffered enough over the last 10 years.”

There is no doubt that the passing away of Manohar Parrikar has left a void in the BJP ranks in Goa and the TMC will go all out to exploit that chink.

As is well known, Goa is a relatively prosperous region and people are educated. TMC will have to bear in mind that what has worked in Bengal may not work in India’s most glamorous holiday destination. Although Bengalis and Goans have a lot in common such as a love for fish and rice and football, Mamata and her advisors will have to understand the local factors that hold the key to electoral victory.

One of the important people who may help TMC to bridge the gap is Luizinho Faleiro, the former chief minister of Goa who is now with the TMC. He is an experienced politician who has previously served as a General Secretary in the All India Congress Committee and was In-charge of the 7 North Eastern states. So he knows how to stitch together coalitions and alliances. Besides, Goa is his home state and he knows the pulse of its people.

Hyderabad’s football star Shabbir Ali has interacted with Mamata Banerjee on many occasions and is highly impressed with her simplicity and fighting spirit. He has received the Banga Bhushan award of the West Bengal state government and the Uttara Bangla Ratna award from her hands.

“She is a dynamic lady. When she goes to functions she herself does the compeering and announcements. She is very down to earth and knows all of us footballers and other sports persons by our names. No formalities where she is concerned. This is a rare quality among political leaders and this is what makes her special. On Aug 3rd, 2012, while attending an Iftar party hosted by the Mohammedan Sporting club, she told me that today is Raksha Bandhan day so instead of putting the scarf around your neck, I will tie it on your wrist. Her friendly smile and informal approach will always be remembered by me and other sportsmen,” said Shabbir Ali. He is confident that she will be able to guide her party along the right lines and it will perform well in the Goa assembly elections which are to be held in February 2022.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.

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