Didi at Jantar Mantar
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The pan-India, pro-aam aadmi opposition slot is vacant. But Mamata has her limitations
By leading a protest at Jantar Mantar, Mamata Banerjee is trying to reclaim lost ground in the national arena after her exit from the UPA, and also to position herself as a messiah of the masses. She could find the going much harder than she imagines. The body politic of the aam aadmi has become heavily contested territory. The Left, which used to be its minder, has been strenuously trying to make itself redundant — with considerable success. For a while, civil society movements appeared to step into the breach, but faltered. Anna Hazare has retired to his rural idyll. And the BJP, while patronising strange champions who pitched for this space — like Ramdev — has expressed only a fitful conviction that the party can ever own it, even by proxy.
Now that Banerjee has taken the unusual step of temporarily suspending her commitments as chief minister and leading a street protest in order to pick up the baton from these worthies, she would do well to consider why none of them have succeeded in carrying it very far. They have remained trapped in the ambit of the issues they canvassed public attention with, which are actually no more than ill-thought out demands. Hazare stands for a version of the Lok Pal, and Ramdev and the BJP are focused on money stashed overseas. None of them, not even the national party, offers anything like an agenda broad enough to be read as political, or to propel the sweeping changes in the fortunes of the poor and the persecuted that they lavishly promise.
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