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Mamata blows against wind
- Trinamul leader sees change where exit polls predict none

Calcutta, April 25: Ebar lokera paribartan anchhe. People will usher in change this time, Mamata Banerjee says.

Exit and opinion polls are predicting 210-plus seats for the Left. To that she replies: “Shishu na janmatei taar annaprasaner din thik hoye galo'”

How can you fix the date of baptism before the child is born'

Elections have thrown up surprises far too often for the comfort of politicians and pollsters, the latest in 2004 when the BJP was swept out of power in Delhi.

Mamata, easily eclipsed by rival Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in the publicity sweepstakes this time ' and, at times, even absent ' has set her sail up to catch this unpredicted wind she thinks is blowing.

“Tough measures taken by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections this time have encouraged those who could not cast votes for nearly three decades because of the CPM’s terror to come out and vote,” she said at a meet-the-press today.

The turnout has been unexpectedly high in the first two phases ' the commission says people are voting without fear and the CPM says it is because of its additional mobilisation effort.

Mamata believes the turnout will go in her favour. Apparently, she truly believes in that possibility.

On Sunday night, she ticked off an associate who meekly questioned the basis. “I am not known for getting election results wrong. I see a resolve in people’s faces to get rid of Buddha-Biman (Bose, the CPM state secretary),” she said.

If it’s for the sake of presenting a confident public face that she told the media she expected change, in private, Mamata’s views are no different.

“Don’t we know nobody likes the wicked CPM' It has managed to be in power by using terror. There will be a change this time, mark my words.”

“Yes, Didi, they are very wicked, they are going to go,” chorused her associates.

In close circles, Mamata has provided a district-wise break-up, according to which Trinamul will win at least 90 seats and the Congress and others another 30. Once the main Opposition’s tally rises to 120, she expects some CPM associates ' apparently not too happy at being lorded over by Big Brother ' to leave the Left Front and join her.

The CPM would laugh at this, so might its partners. That’s not a surprise.

Here’s what a Mamata associate had to say on condition of anonymity. “She is an astute leader, she knows what she is talking about. Only thing is that we don’t have the same feeling. However, we are not equipped with her kind of insight.”

Several associates cited the small crowds ' ranging between 500 and 4,000 ' at her meetings in Calcutta and the districts.

On the afternoon of April 20, about 1,200 people turned up at Champdani, Hooghly, where she spoke for 15 minutes. In the last election, she had addressed an estimated 10,000 people there.

On the evening of April 20, there was a crowd of about 500 (6,000 in 2001) at Taltolla in central Calcutta.

On April 16, at Balagar in Hooghly, the gathering was 700-strong (18,000 in 2001)

“You don’t know election-time crowds better than me,” Mamata would snap at the doubting associates. “They (people) were there all right, lining either side of the road through which I travelled. I saw them wave and cheer. Besides, large crowds do not necessarily mean large votes.”

The perception this time is that Mamata is less visible as a campaigner, but she contests it, saying the media have chosen not to take note of her. According to a reliable estimate, Mamata has addressed 170 meetings, travelling nearly 40,000 km in one and a half months.

Today, she also spoke of Congress support for Trinamul candidates in most of the 111 seats that went to polls in the first two phases.

“I have information Congress workers had forged a mahajot (grand alliance) with Trinamul Congress in 80 per cent of the 111 seats. I am grateful to those Congress workers.”

Left red-faced, state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya said he was unaware of such an alliance.

Last time, the Trinamul slogan was: “Chup chap, phule chhaap.” Vote silently for Trinamul.

This time, that slogan has not been heard but a silent revolution is taking place which maybe Mamata can see and pollsters can’t.

“Manush ke confuse kara hochche, CPM ke oxygen deya hochchhe.” People are being confused, the CPM is being given oxygen, she said of the exit polls.

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