‘Antagonised’ Mamata to become more combative after Bengal polls (News Analysis)

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New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Irked by the constant attacks against her and her government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could bring out the claws against her rivals, a la a “Bengal tigress”, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress, post the state elections that the ruling Trinamool expects to win comfortably, her close associates say.

The reading in the Trinamool Congress camp, and partly endorsed by independent Bengal watchers, is that Banerjee would win the elections comfortably this time. She will be in a “more combative mood vis-a-vis national and parliamentary politics” and launch a virtual war against both the BJP and the Congress, they say.

“We believe that the Election Commission’s virtual war against the state police and state administration during the assembly elections is largely at the behest of the central government. There is an element of vindictiveness with which the Centre, the BJP and the Congress leaders have conducted themselves against our leader (Mamata),” one Trinamool leader told IANS.

Party leaders like Mukul Roy, Partha Chatterjee and Shishir Adhikari have time and again mooted the idea of pushing Mamata into national politics for a bigger role.

“For us, beyond Bengal, sky is the limit, and Mamata Banerjee’s crusader image for landless farmers and marginalised people is the only trump card,” Adhikari had said in 2013.

In fact, Mamata Banerjee’s party tried to strike a chord with all-India voters in 2014 as well, but it came a cropper after her Ram Lila Maidan joint rally with activist Anna Hazare in Delhi failed to evoke any enthusiasm. Worse, even Hazare had stayed away from the March 12, 2014 rally, provoking ridicule in social media that the aFantasy Front’ has failed to take off.

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Now, two years down the line, her trusted aides in the party say that by aligning with Mamata’s bitter rivals the Marxists-led Left Front in West Bengal, the Congress party has apparently “antagonizeda¿ the Trinamool supremo on a “long-term basis if not permanently”.

“I do not see any rapprochement between Congress and Trinamool in national politics in the immediate future. But it is also true that asab shesh habar par abar surjo uthey (the sun rises again after darkness),” one key Trinamool leader told IANS.

“Mamata didi tried her best to keep Congress president Sonia Gandhi in humour. Even after walking out of the UPA in 2012, our leadership did not antagonize the Congress high command. But the Congress alliance with Leftists was perhaps a mistake by the Congress. Didi has not taken the move lightly,” the senior party leader said on the condition of anonymity.

His statement comes amid indications that Trinamool leaders have got a feedback during last week that “even a section of Congress leaders feel the alliance with the Left was a strategic mistake”.

Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and a few other leaders have reportedly tried to reach out to the Trinamool MPs during the ongoing parliament session and dropped hints about looking for “rebooting a new start”.

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“It is an internal matter of the Congress. But the impression we got is even they realise that a Left-Congress alliance will actually help the Leftists more than Congress. Left parties will increase their vote share and possibly win a few seats in North Bengal – which for long has been a Congress bastion. And the Congress which does not have an organisation in rest of Bengal will only eat humble pie,” he said.

“Therefore, a section of Congress leaders want to explore doing business yet again with Didi,” he added.

But such claims have been turned down outright by the Congress party.

Senior Congress leader K.V. Thomas told IANS: “Left-Congress understanding in West Bengal was a historical necessity to fight the tyranny of Mamata Banerjee. It will help Congress as much as it will help the Left parties. And ultimately it will also help the people of Bengal.a¿

Nevertheless, the feeling in Trinamool vis-a-vis both the Congress and BJP is one of “hurt”.

“More than fighting us politically, both Congress and BJP have made it personal against Mamata Banerjee. This cannot go down well with the Trinamool leadership as well as with our grassroots party workers,” another Trinamool leader opined.

He pointed out that as late as December 2015 during her visit to New Delhi, Mamata Banerjee tried to reach out to Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

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On December 8, 2015, the West Bengal chief minister perhaps surprised her admirers and critics alike when she said a senior leader like Sonia Gandhi should not be summoned for personal appearance in a court of law.

“I feel bad ….. sad that Sonia Gandhi was asked to appear in court in the National Herald case. People who have been in politics for such a long time, it is not good that they appear in court. I feel bad about it,” Banerjee had said.

Trinamool sources say there was an element of “risk” for Mamata to have made the statement as her detractors in the Left lost no chance to link the National Herald case to the Saradha chit fund scam probe that has many senior Trinamool leaders at the receiving end.

“Yet, she displayed pragmatism and extended a hand of friendship to Sonia.”

The Trinamool Congress is equally displeased with BJP’s personal attacks on their leader, insiders say.

“With regard to BJP too we feel let down,” Trinamool sources said, adding: “They went out to campaign with personal attacks and described Mamata as a symbol of tyranny, corruption and lawlessness. They perhaps forgot that Mamata had enjoyed good rapport with L.K. Advani and Atal Behari Vajpayee and was once part of the NDA,” a party leader said.

(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at [email protected])



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