West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s two-day visit to Mumbai from Tuesday has generated immense political interest as she is scheduled to meet top Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party leaders, besides leading industrialists.
They include NCP President Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena’s Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray and MP and chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut, both members of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance which comprises Congress as the third partner.
“The CM of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee-ji will pay a courtesy visit to our party President Sharad Pawar Saheb tomorrow, 3 p.m. at his residence ‘Silver Oak,’ in Mumbai,” said NCP national spokesperson and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik said.
This evening, Raut and Thackeray Jr. were slated to call on Banerjee – who is also the Trinamool Congress chief – at a five-star hotel in Nariman Point, south Mumbai, though the meeting agenda is kept under wraps.
Banerjee landed here this evening and drove down to the famed Shri Siddhivinayak Ganptai Temple at Prabhadevi – which has deep religious significance for Maharashtrians – to offer prayers.
From there, she proceeded to Girgaum Chowpatty Beach and paid homage at the memorial of the 26/11 hero – policeman Tukaram Ombale, who caught the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab alive there early on November 27, 2008 at the height of the Mumbai terror attacks.
There was speculation – in some circles – of a possible meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, but it was categorically ruled out as he presently convalescing after a spinal surgery, though she enquired after his health from Raut.
On Wednesday, Banerjee is expected to meet several top industrialists and corporate honchos to lure them for investments in her state, and invite them for the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit in April 2022.
However, the Congress’ Maharashtra General Secretary and Media Coordinator Zakir Ahmed slammed Banerjee’s style of politics, saying she has failed to assess the ground reality and must discard a neo-political novice like Prashant Kishore.
“The Congress and Rahul Gandhi fight the RSS, BJP and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi- (Home Minister) Amit Shah. But Mamta will challenge Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Knowingly or unwittingly, she is helping the saffron groups and committing the same blunders that people like Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and others did in the past,” Ahmed contended.
At the same time, NCP’s Malik said that Pawar has repeatedly stressed the need for all opposition parties to unite, but such an alliance was not possible without the Congress.
“We feel that if the Sena-NCP-Congress could join hands in Maharashtra, then even the AITC can cooperate with the Congress… If there are some differences, these can be hammered out, let’s see,” Malik said.
On a new high after sweeping the West Bengal Assembly elections last May, Banerjee is currently flapping her wings for a national political flight.
Last April, Pawar was planning to campaign for Banerjee during the Assembly elections but was unable to do so owing to certain constraints, while the Sena had decided against putting up candidates there to avoid damaging the Trinamool’s prospects.
Since the past couple of years, both Pawar and Banerjee are keenly making efforts to engage the national opposition parties and provide a united fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Besides Pawar, Banerjee enjoys a great rapport with Uddhav Thackeray, whom she has met in the past, though her relations with the Congress – the MVA’s third partner here – continue to be strained owing to political reasons in her home state.
Akin to the NCP and Congress, the Sena and the Trinamool are avowed political rivals of the BJP, with Thackeray and Banerjee famed as fiery fighter-orators who are also powerful on their respective home-turfs.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at email@example.com)