The swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was the biggest show of opposition unity where Sonia and Rahul Gandhi shared the stage with Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Pinarayi Vijayan, N Chandrababu Naidu, Tejasswi Yadav, D Raja, Sitaram Yechury and many others. The Congress has had bitter relations with its former allies like NCP but the party didn’t let it come in between opposition unity.
However, the chief minister of West Bengal was the only one who clearly stated that she was present to support Kumaraswamy and not Congress, and her displeasure with the grand old party was apparent. Given the strong presence of Mamata’s Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha — a total of 34 members, making it the fourth largest party after the BJP, Mamata Banerjee considers herself to play a seminal role in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
No Ideological Differences
Ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, BJP is desperately looking for new partners after Shiv Sena and TDP deserted it and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Mamata Banerjee be a part of NDA in time to come. With Narendra Modi looking to lose many seats in 2019 general elections, the BJP is scouting for new allies, or may we say friends-in-guise-of-foes, to keep its ship sailing.
The Trinamool Congress isn’t guided by any ideology and Mamata Banerjee has never spoken against BJP. She was a cabinet minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee led government during which the RSS called her “ the Durga of Bengal”. Even her fierce attacks during Demonetisation were aimed at Narendra Modi and not the central government. In 2016 she had argued for the central government to headed by BJP veteran L K Advani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley or Home Minister Rajnath Singh instead of Modi. However, her narrative changed in 2017 when she stated that she “favours” Narendra Modi, but not Amit Shah. The goalpost in her war of words against was very cleverly shifted by targeting BJP president.
The Hidden Bonhomie
In a disguised bonhomie with the NDA, Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress hasn’t participated in the major political issues the opposition took to against the government in the Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha. The CBI has been after Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family since the victory of Mahagathbandan in 2015, but it is yet to take actions in the Saradha and Rose Valley Ponzi scams that destroyed the savings of millions in West Bengal. Also, no progress has been made in the investigation of the Narada bribery scam in which several prominent TMC leaders were caught accepting bribes on camera.
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One of the prominent members of Trinamool Congress, Mukul Roy, who was involved in Narada scam has taken refuge in BJP. Interestingly, the number of RSS Shakhas in West Bengal have exponentially grown by 70.5% during Mamata Banerjee’s tenure in office. West Bengal today, is a state known for its culture of political violence, but Left parties and Congress have been the victims of violence more than BJP. The filing of nominations is the best example of understanding between Modi and Didi.
The Trinamool Congress had filed 1,000 nominations for the Zilla Parishads, followed by the BJP with 782 and CPM with 537. For the panchayat samitis, the Trinamool Congress had filed 12,590 nominations, BJP 6,149, and CPM 4,400. Lastly, for the gram panchayats, Trinamool Congress had filed 58,978 nominations, BJP 27,935, CPM 17,319 and Congress had nominated 7,313 candidates. It is ironical that in spite of the violence, the Congress having 42 seats in assembly could file only one-third nominations in contrast to BJP which has just 3 seats.
Similarities Between Modi and Didi
They may project that they do not like each other much, but Modi and Didi have much in common. While Narendra Modi was a tea vendor, Mamata worked as a milk booth vendor to battle poverty early in her life and both of them rose to success with the backing of any political dynasty.
Narendra Modi wants Congress Mukt Bharat, whereas Mamata Banerjee wants opposition free Bengal.
After coming to power in 2012, Mamata promised the creation of 1 crore job within a year in West Bengal which was similar to Narendra Modi’s promise of 2 crore jobs per years. However, there’s no data to prove whether both promises have been fulfilled. When Narendra Modi came up with the idea of selling Pakodas as venture for the unemployed youth, he might not have been aware of the fact that Mamata Banerjee had already provided the Bengali youth with a business model to set up a tea kiosk, a sweetmeat shop or a roadside snacks or ‘telebhaja’ joint back in 2015. Even Kanyashree, the scheme intended for empowering girls with a generous stipend for pursuing higher studies instead of getting married at a young age was launched in 2013, exactly two years before Modi’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”. The BJP might be claiming that “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” is a better and more comprehensive scheme bringing the urgency to stop female foeticide in its scope, but the reality is that Kanyashree has given Mamata Banerjee the prestigious UN Public Service Day award for it in 2017. Both Modi and Didi do not bother about opinions in a democracy, the majority of their decisions are arbitrary and both of them are sensitive to criticisms.
Replacing Modi with Another Modi?
It is quite clear to everyone that there is a leadership crisis in the opposition unity plan. There is no such single leader who can become the rallying point, and if there is such a leader it will be the beginning of the end of the opposition unity. Since 2014, there have been regular apprehensions by political commentators about the threats to Indian democracy under a majoritarian government of Narendra Modi. These four years have unleashed an unprecedented process of social and political regression in the country. The freedom of speech, religious liberty and the right of every Indian to live peacefully in his country are under threat. The prevailing terror and violence, allegedly unleashed by the Trinamool Congress against the opposition candidates, must also ring bells of anarchy for anyone believing in democracy.
Mamata Banerjee has disregarded the basic principles of democracy which is the right of the Opposition to take part in the elections. At present, not even a distant appearance of democracy exists in Bengal. The Trinamool cadres who shout “Jai Shri Ram” while assaulting opposition activists will not have second thoughts in switching over to the side of the RSS/BJP when the time is ripe. I am sceptical about the fact that the aspirants of the third front like K Chandrashekhar Rao, Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar and others will rethink their relationship with Banerjee since an unrivalled TMC will yield maximum numbers in the Lok Sabha.
The agenda of the opposition should be providing a better alternative to Narendra Modi, not replacing it with another blot on democracy. The Trinamool Congress follows only one ideology which is the ideology of ‘grabbing power’. To many, Mamata might appear as a leader fighting tooth and nail to dethrone Modi, but remember that Nitish Kumar also used to say, “Mitti Mein Mil Jayenge Par BJP Ke Saath Nahi Jayenge” (I would rather be finished than go with the BJP) and rest is history. Whatever the uncertainty, if the BJP ends up being the single largest party, and crosses 240 mark, Mamata Banerjee would certainly abandon her pre-election coalition and rush to join the NDA.
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