West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has somehow left her other Opposition peers far behind in taking cudgels with the Centre’s ruling party, or the BJP and the NDA led by it. So much so that she has rubbed the BJP the wrong way by reaching out to some of the senior persons virtually reduced to persona non grata in the party.
And this is how the BJP is greatly annoyed with her though she has also met leaders of various Opposition parties during her three-day sojourn in Delhi. This she has been doing with the intention of forming a broad front against the BJP before 2019 polls.
Her meeting with former BJP Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani on August 1 in his chamber in Parliament comes days after the former BJP Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra left the party and joined Mamata’s TMC. Mitra has for long been close to Advani. Though Mamata called her meeting with Advani as a courtesy call to enquire about the nonagenarian BJP leader’s health the rendezvous did not miss the BJP’s more consequential section’s attention.
Soon her forays in Delhi became all the more provocative for the BJP as estranged BJP MP Kirti Azad saw her in TMC office in Parliament and she met former BJP veterans like Yashwant Sinha and Ram Jethmalani besides present BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha at Jethmalani’s residence. All these highly sought after leaders during the NDA-I days in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s era have somehow been put in the cold under BJP’s new power scheme run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party point-man Amit Shah.
Mamata’s outreach has somehow not been confined to the older, or senior, segment of BJP leaders alone. Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut too saw her in the TMC office in Parliament. All this besides her confabulations with leaders of almost every Opposition party, including Congress chief Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi, rattled the BJP so much that its chief Amit Shah held a Press conference on Wednesday.
He decried Mamata’s stand on NRC or National Register of Citizens, that was published on July 30. Somehow, it has left over four million Bengali speaking population of Assam unregistered. Amit Shah has also vowed to visit Kolkata on August 11 to raise the foreigners, or Bangladeshi infiltrators, issue in North Eastern States, including Bengal, at a rally. Shah has challenged Mamata to arrest him when he goes to the Bengal capital.
Unfazed by this Mamata has plans of sending her party’s delegation to Assam in the meantime to meet people whose names do not figure in the NRC. And she has also plans for follow up of her proposal of forming a collective of parties and their leaders to take on the BJP in the next year’s countrywide general elections by another visit to Delhi later this month. She expects all these leaders to participate in a mega rally of Opposition parties in her State on January 19.
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Thus, Mamata has showed a strong desire to bring Opposition parties onto a single platform before the next parliamentary polls. This is so at a time when the parties opposed to the BJP have been fighting their individual battles alone with the Centre and the BJP. Taking to the forefront has not been easy for the Opposition leaders as most of them feared that cases would be foisted against them in case they bother and trouble the BJP too much. Thus, Mamata has taken the lead to bell the cat called the BJP and this has brought great relief to myriad parties in the Opposition whose leaders have often expressed the fear that the CBI and other Government agencies could well be set behind them.
In fact, Mamata is acting as a bridge between different parties by pleading with peers and contemporaries from other parties to hold hands and jointly face the BJP’s tide.
With her coming to the front a virtual women power is going to be unleashed. This can be more so courtesy leaders like Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi who may well give her a helping hand.
Mamata’s unassuming and simple ways are in keeping with the spirit of renunciation rather than setting off a race among the leaders for the top post of PM. Yet, Mamata’s reach is limited to the centrist forces and it does not or hardly touch the Left. But the Left of the centre too is dogged by the fierce right and, thus, it has little option but to fall in line with the rest of the Opposition that Mamata is bringing together.
The rare drive shown by her is, indeed, going to cast a shadow over BJP’s attempts to add more allies to its National Democratic Alliance which has already slimmed a bit because of the exit of Telugu Desam Party in the South and PDP, or Peoples Democratic Party, in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mamata’s Congress antecedents during the initial part of her politics beginning since the 1970s and followed by her joining the NDA-I during Vajpayee’s times makes her ideally suited for coalition building. Despite being a Central Minister in NDA-I Mamata has mainly been a regional leader. So she poses no or little threat to national players like Congress, or even the NCP, or Nationalist Congress Party, led by Sharad Pawar. She met Pawar on August 1 to invite him to her January 19 rally in Bengal.
So all parties, whether national or regional, can easily fall in line with her. And, thus, she has turned out to be the Opposition’s best bet to take on the growing might of the BJP. More so when some of the Centre’s ruling party’s allies like Shiv Sena are becoming uneasy and finding the NDA to be too burdensome for them.
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