Chief Minister’s Mamata Banerjee’s silence regarding Narendra Modi in the past month, and her sudden departure from the political conversation around the Uttar Pradesh elections, hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Opposition, particularly the Congress and Left, have alleged this is yet another indication that Mamata secretly supports the rise of right-wing politics in the state. However, the Trinamool Congress has maintained that this should not be seen as a “change in political direction”, but as a brief observation period to calculate her next step, depending on the outcome of the UP elections. Speaking about party strategy, a TMC leader said focus would remain on demonetisation, secularism and development.
“The attack is going to be directed at Narendra Modi, and how the country’s federal structure is being weakened. Bengal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh might be very culturally different. But at the end of it, both states are suffering because of the Centre’s continued step-treatment. The debt in the states is a result of this. The BJP has been destroying the secular, peaceful fabric of the country. In Bengal, they haven’t been able to do so, and that is their vision,” he said.
Mamata’s next point of collision with the BJP is likely to be the run-up to the presidential election, which has to take place before July 25. The chief minister, sources indicated, is likely to support Pranab Mukherjee’s re-election.
The BJP has repeatedly alleged, particularly after party leader Juhi Chowdhury’s arrest in a child trafficking case, that Mamata is directing the state CID to hunt and persecute the party. This, the Left and Congress maintain, is an attempt to conceal an “understanding” between the two parties.
These allegations reached a point where state BJP president Dilip Ghosh had to publicly deny them, saying “opponents were alarmed as it (BJP) was on way to becoming a deciding factor in the next Assembly polls in the state”.
TMC sources, on the other hand, said Mamata did not plan to give up on casting herself as a prime ministerial candidate.
“The attack on Modi over demonetisation and religious polarity is a calculated effort to project herself as a significant figure in national politics. But right now, she is waiting for UP results – like every other party in the country,” said a party leader.
Mamata had decided to campaign in Punjab – where TMC is doing so – and had also agreed to campaign for Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.
“But there was no invitation from Akhilesh Yadav, and Mamata did not push the issue. If Akhilesh is to win the elections, that is a better result for her than Modi winning it. But not by much, since ultimately both Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata will be contesting for the same prime ministerial seat in 2019,” said a senior TMC leader.