» Kolkata Diary »
Didi Comedy Show
How idols crumble. A year ago, the entire Kolkata middle class was passionately behind Mamata Banerjee, waiting eagerly for election day when they could vote Jyoti Basu out. "But will Didi be able to provide good governance?" I remember asking friends, and invariably the reply would be: "We'll figure that out when the time comes. First let's get rid of these sham Leftists." A year later, I find that most of these people—stockbrokers and bankers, software entrepreneurs and mnc executives—did the unthinkable: voted the Left Front. To keep out Didi. The message from the middle class to Mamata was clear: that she was not trustworthy enough to be handed the reins of power. Her erratic volte faces and changes-of-mind had gained her neither the Muslim vote nor the moral high ground, as she had hoped. Instead, her resignation from the nda government had only eroded her credibility. "When the time came to vote, the Bengali looked at the options rationally, not emotionally," a senior journalist told me. "And they saw a lady who did not seem to know herself what she was going to do tomorrow. This was not what we wanted from a chief minister." Almost everyone says if she had stayed with the nda, Mamata would have won more seats. And almost everyone tells me that if the nda takes her back, it's going to make Mamata a laughing stock in Bengal and the nda government look like a craven Pushmi-Pullyu, Dr Dolittle's pet llama which had two heads looking in opposite directions and so could never decide which way to go.