Her reconciliation with the Modi-Shah duo raises questions about why she is staking her credibility
Mamata Banerjee may be the Trinamool Congress chief and the Bengal Chief Minister but her larger than life image across India has been of a quintessential rebel, a fighter for her people, a crusader for justice and a conscience keeper of the establishment. In fact, she has been able to carve up the political space and craft her invincible spirit precisely because of her fire and brimstone attitude and agitationist style. Her politics of subversion convinced people of her sincerity of purpose, one that never settled or compromised. She broke away from the Congress, toppled the Left and swung in and out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government with an activism of principles. In that sense, she has been a disruptor and in recent years emerged as a helmswoman of the Opposition, the only one qualified to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputy Amit Shah and match their aggression step by step. But as she met her arch enemies, carrying sandesh instead of the gravel that she had promised they would have to chew if they overstepped limits in Bengal, it seemed she had not only softened but had submitted to a truce. Ostensibly for smoother Centre-State relations. There were yellow flowers too, the colour of friendship, something that didn’t even bloom in the 15-month duel of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Maa Kali.” The swiftness with which she changed tack following the CBI’s heat on Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar certainly raises questions about whether she is dousing flames of the Sarada chit fund scam and staking her political survival on a cessation of hostilities. For her twin meetings can only be interpreted in extremes, as self-defeatist or selfish.
Didi’s overnight transformation certainly is not in sync with her politically astute moves. Known for her rabid opposition to the National Register for Citizens (NRC), she has now accepted it as part of the Assam Accord and confining its context to that State, said it wasn’t needed in Bengal. And in a shocker, she has overturned her “defiance” by expressing “concern” over “genuine citizens left out” and reasoned out their exclusion with the one man she had abhorred, refusing him landing rights in Bengal during the Lok Sabha campaign — Amit Shah. Also, for all the vitriol against Modi — whom she called a “big zero,” a “most corrupt man” and a “danga babu” — she actually sought his good offices to set up a meeting with Shah, who as Home Minister controls investigative agencies. Modi now is her “Prime Minister”, one whose oath-taking she had shunned, claiming it was tantamount to devaluing democracy as he was using it to score political points. It isn’t rocket science to understand that her offer to Modi to jointly inaugurate a mining block in the State would mean sharing the dais and perhaps even a speech. Considering amnesia comes easy to other turncoat leaders, one doesn’t expect such short-term memory loss from the Trinamool leader, whose members and insiders are just as confused by the sudden turn of events. Assuming that Kumar knows way too much and might be pressured to spill the beans, has it spooked Didi enough to risk her credibility? Enough to take away the sheen off her dharna in Kolkata for Kumar, which she had magnified as a national campaign against an assault on constitutional freedoms? Whatever, this latest posturing by Mamata beggars logic. Deducing the meetings at face value, even if she has managed to convince the Modi-Shah duo of the need to keep NRC from Bengal, what would the BJP get in return? With the latest bonhomie pictures blunting the edge of her anti-Modi plank that she had built up with a certain shrillness, it is difficult to understand how she will get a new narrative going before the Assembly elections in 2021. With the BJP besting its performance in the Lok Sabha polls and within smelling distance of power in the State, it is unlikely it will give up on its intimidatory tactics, namely poaching legislators, targetting the scam-tainted and naturalising cross-party migration. With the Trinamool being the only other party of substance in Bengal, Mamata’s ideology of “Maa, Maati, Maanush” isn’t enough to hold it together. A compromise by anybody else can be taken in stride but the one by Mamata seems like a wilful surrender. Worse, though she is known for earlier flip-flops, the current move could cost her the popular vote. Any comeback after that will be an uphill task. Unless she reconciles to being just an ideologue than the robust leader she is. Or expected to be.
Saturday, 21 September 2019 | Pioneer
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