Nothing is unfair in love and war – Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered to resign from the post last Saturday. Her party scraped through the Lok Sabha polls. Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) which won 34 of the 42 seats in the state at the 2014 polls, could bag only 22 this time. Meanwhile, the BJP which fared very poorly in 2014 winning only two seats, delivered a spectacular performance this time clinching 18 seats.
Though the TMC still won the state even with a slim margin its senior leaders arestill in a state of shock. They are puzzled as to how the Hindutva BJP could come closer to secular TMC in a state where secularism holds sway. Banerjee, a Hindu who holds a Master’s degree in Islamic History has been a strong proponent of secularism. The Muslims who form 27% of the state population voted en bloc for TMC at the polls. The Chief Minister’s key campaign call for voters was to thwart all moves by the BJP to “push the state towards religious extremism”.
Though Banerjee offered to resign from the post at last Saturday’s TMCmeeting, the party seniors understandably, had rejected her offer.After all they cannot think of a TMC sans their leader who formed the party way back in 1998 after she broke ranks with Congress. While she will continue as the CM it is likely that the TMC leader will have a tough time in keeping the party rank and file being swept away by the BJP currents now that the latter had made major inroads into the TMC vote bank.
However, setback at polls was not the only worry of CM Banerjee.
Days before the elections in West Bengal Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched a raw nerve of Mamata Banerjee. He dropped a political bomb during a‘non-political’ interview with actor Akshay Kumar declaring that Banerjee had the habit of sending him kurtas and sweets.
“Mamata-didi sends me gifts. She selects at least one or two kurtas herself and sends them to me. She still sends me one or two kurtas every year,” said Modi.
Interestinglyby the time Modi made this revelation Banerjee’s TMC was making life miserable for BJP men in Bengal. Even organizing a rally had become a challenge for the BJP as the powerfulchief minister was trying all tricks in the book to prevent Modi’s party from displaying its strength in her state. This finally led to the BJP filing an official complaint with the Elections Commission against the Chief Minister.
As such when the news that Banerjee sends Kurtas to Modi made national headlines it took many by surprise. In fact the news added a comical element to the otherwise bitter campaign trail. Making matters worse two days after Modi’s statement a senior Congress leader, the actor-turned politician Raj Babbar took a jibe at Chief Minister Banerjee asking how she knew the “size of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s kurtas”. Banerjee did not deny Modi’s statement. She only said she would add stones to sweets when she sends him the next pack.Many saw Modi’sdisclosure as “a below the belt shot” aimed at the belligerent CM to tame her.
In the early years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term many analysts had pointed out there was some sort of a tacit understanding between the PM and the West Bengal Chief Minister. Banerjee never attacked the PM in person and directed almost all taunts at Amit Shah, the President of the BJP. Modi too had been very careful about his criticism on West Bengal. The mutual respect between the PM and the CM, both in their sixties and single, was attributed to their common background, both having entered politics as youngsters and risen to top slots from being cadres with sheer hard work and dedication. With that being the case many ask as to why PM Modi waited till the run up to this year’s Lok Sabha polls to reveal that he had been receiving gifts from the West Bengal CM. Banerjee certainly must be feeling betrayed.
It was obvious that whatever goodwill that was there between the two leaders was spoiled with the polls. Chances are very slim for the relations to return to normalcy with a determined BJP now out to oust the chief minister.