The Trinamool Congress on Monday strongly supported the TRAI amendment Bill, helping the government keep the Prime Minister’s chosen man, Nripendra Misra, in his job. But this wasn’t the plan initially.
The TMC’s Saugata Roy had opposed the Bill only two days earlier, and Item No. 9 in Monday’s list of business in the Lok Sabha said Roy and the Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury would lead a House resolution disapproving the TRAI ordinance.
Top sources said the TMC’s volte-face — which saw Roy skipping the House and parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay arguing that the PM should be able to appoint “whomsoever he deemed fit” — came after TMC chief Mamata Banerjee issued specific orders that the Bill should not be opposed. MPs were told that the appointment of officials was the PM’s prerogative, and that no great public interest was at stake in the matter.
In the morning, therefore, Bandopadhyay met Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu and reportedly told him that the TMC would back the amendment.
Roy subsequently said that his strong opposition to the Bill at the time of its introduction in the House had been his personal view. On Tuesday, he told The Indian Express he had nothing more to say on the matter. Rajya Sabha too passed the Bill on Tuesday.
Senior Trinamool leaders who spoke anonymously said the party leadership was yet to define its position towards the Narendra Modi government. Initiatives from both the TMC and BJP since the elections indicate a blow hot-blow cold strategy, aimed at negotiating a working relationship that is beneficial to both sides.
Several ministers in Mamata Banerjee’s government said that the CM was likely to have remembered that she too has strong personal preferences, and likes to pick her bureaucrats carefully.
“It would be an understatement to say that she picks and chooses her bureaucrats… She cares little about seniority and hierarchies,” a top bureaucrat said. “Her chief secretary, Sanjay Mitra, superseded six IAS officers senior to him. Didi bulldozed all reservations.”
Trinamool leaders said that in directing her MPs to help the passage of the Bill, Mamata would have been guided by her public announcement that her party would not oppose the government for the sake of opposing, and would go issue-by-issue, deciding the TMC’s line on merit.
The NDA has seemed to be accommodative as well.
Four central ministers — Smriti Irani, Ram Vilas Paswan, Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan — have come to West Bengal so far, and each has made it a point to get in touch with Mamata. The three BJP ministers called on her to discuss issues of “mutual interest”, and Paswan, a meeting with whom could not be accommodated in the CM’s schedule, spoke to her by phone.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj rang Mamata before her visit to Bangladesh and gave the Chief Minister a detailed briefing. The Teesta water-sharing and exchange of enclaves remain unresolved issues with Dhaka.
At a public rally, CPM politburo member and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Surya Kanta Mishra spoke of “ominous signs of a patch-up between the BJP and TMC”. His colleague Md Selim said the TRAI episode had exposed the TMC’s inability to take a “principled stand”.
WBPCC president and Baharampur MP Chowdhury said, “It is evident now that the TMC has two faces, one public and the other hidden.”