While the Supreme Court acted impartially and justly, the political ripples of Bengal will impact LS polls
In the end, the Supreme Court emerged as the practical mediator in the Bengal vs Centre title clash on the CBI’s inquiry into the Saradha ponzi scam, one that saw a rather aggressive agency team take on the Kolkata Police Commissioner no less for non-cooperation and drew in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as champion of federal rights. It made it clear that no matter what the aggression and adventurism by both sides, whatever the twists and turns of Constitutional niceties and protocol, the wherefores of who is right or wrong, the evidence or lack of it, a Police Commissioner could not be arrested or hounded but simply asked to cooperate with the CBI and provide information that he had collected as head of the SIT probing the case. Justice should follow due process in neutral environs. But the political takeaways from the firestorm that raged over the last few days have clearly given the general elections a polarity rather than ambivalence, an aggressive, muscle-flexing BJP posited against a combined might of the Opposition front. A Modi juggernaut versus a challenger Mamata.
The timing of pushing the Saradha probe so close to the election was not lost on anybody, given the bristling ego battles between BJP and Trinamool Congress over campaigning privileges in Bengal, a state that the former wishes to break into with a double-digit scorecard. It’s no rocket science that the BJP needed to dent Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, who solidified her place as chief architect of the mahagathbandhan with her United India rally and riled up her rivals no end. Besides, the Central agencies didn’t pick on her singularly for ensuring retrospective justice, they even went after Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. But what the BJP didn’t bargain for was Didi’s supreme ability to turn around any narrative to her advantage. So even if victimising the Opposition by going after their Achilles heel is a known electoral ploy that has worked before, Didi turned it into a persecution so grave that it grew just beyond her party or state; it became an affront to the federal spirit of the Constitution and an ideological crusade. One that merited street-style tactics and a black or white simplicity of histrionics. Truth be told, in underestimating her capacity to turn any liability into an asset, the BJP has gifted her the advantage she wanted, “us”, the puny “maanush”, versus them who paratroop in helicopters. The Saradha scam doesn’t bother her because she herself initiated the probe and even punished several of her own people involved. In fact, it is no secret that her one-time colleague Mukul Roy or even Union Minister Babul Supriyo have claimed immunity for their alleged complicity in both Saradha and Rose Valley cases by switching sides. As far as the state is concerned, Mamata still has absolute control with the immediacy of her unbound energy and direct interfaces. So her message was a national one, strong enough to bring the entire spectrum of Opposition leaders rallying to her cause because somewhere it affected them individually and she stood up for all of them. The likes of TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, DMK’s Kanimozhi and RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav joined her dharna even as she coaxed the most non-committal player, BJD’s Naveen Patnaik, into supporting her cause. This convergence of interests could hurt the BJP’s arithmetic. And make Congress chief Rahul Gandhi realise that she could be the only bridge for an alternative front. Besides, by praising the state police force in hyperboles, she has won over a new constituency. Didi has always staked her last limb and by pivoting a national counterpoint, may be taking the biggest risk of her political career. But then she has no compunction being, in her own words, the LIP, “least important person.” Sadly, the only aftertaste that’s bitter is that the political slugfest reduced institutions to pawns and their prestige to mockery. The ugliest question is of the duped investor, where does he go?
Wednesday, 06 February 2019 | Pioneer