The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Politicians in distress miss out on the real thing and charge at the proverbial windmills. Instead of being swayed by her delusions, the union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, has decided to tell Ms Mamata Banerjee some home truths. The Trinamool Congress leader should have known them herself, but for her present confusions. She should have known that the National Democratic Alliance government cannot oblige her by invoking Article 356 of the Constitution to unseat the ruling Marxists in West Bengal. If she believed that the Centreís intervention was possible, she was either deluding herself or misleading her followers. It was left to Mr Advani to drive home the obvious to her. Mr Advani also had to tell her that she needed to build up a sustained political battle against the left ó this should have been as clear as daylight to her. Mr Advaniís plain-speaking has robbed her of a worn-out political ploy. It has also exposed her inability to meet the Marxist challenge politically.

Yet, Ms Banerjee could try and help herself by following Mr Advaniís advice. Nobody can deny that West Bengal needs a credible opposition to restore some balance to its politics. The Marxistsí uninterrupted rule for over a quarter of a century raises fundamental questions about democracy and political pluralism. A monolithic political structure is inimical to the peopleís right to multiple choices. Despite many setbacks, largely of her own making, Ms Banerjee remains the strongest rallying force for opposition politics in the state. But recent elections should leave her in no doubt that her personal popularity among the anti-left masses is no guarantee for political success. What she badly needs is a credible party organization which can put up a real challenge to the Marxists. And no leader, however popular, can build such an organization by plunging into action only during elections. The problem with Ms Banerjee is that she seems quite incapable of understanding this simple truth. Like most self-deluded leaders, she seems to think that she is the party. That could be suicidal for a leader who proves to be a loser time and again. No wonder there is a rising murmur of dissent in her party against her style of leadership, as against her decision to impose a boycott of the state assembly on the partyís legislators. Obvious though it was, Mr Advaniís advice could be a starting point for her to engage seriously in building the party. There are doubts, however, if she will take the lesson. She seems more keen to use Mr Advaniís visit to her party office to score brownie points over critics. It is time Ms Banerjee realized that politics is not all gimmick.

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