It is not immediately clear whether it is the dangling Saradha sword or speculation about a possible Congress-Left tie-up, but Trinamool Congress has clearly warmed up to Congress on the National Herald issue in a way that makes it stand out in the opposition block.
On Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien made a strong statement about how his party or any other party does not need to be reminded about the legislative obligations of MPs but at a time when there is political vendetta happening all across the country the matter needs to be raised. Sloganeering Congress MPs in the well hit the mute button for just enough time for O’Brien to make his speech. The Lok Sabha MPs on their part walked out along with Congress in protest against political vendetta. On Tuesday, most Trinamool MPs in Lok Sabha stood up in solidarity with the agitated Congress MPs and no less than the party supremo herself outlined the party’s position when she unambiguously supported the Gandhis’ reluctance to appear in court. She also met Sonia Gandhi to wish her on her birthday and claimed that there were no political discussions at the meeting.
There are obviously points of convergence between the two parties. In the last winter session of Parliament Trinamool had put up a protest a day and one of the issues that its MPs had protested against was the CBI action in the Saradha scam. Two Trinamool Rajya Sabha MPs were imprisoned, and one MP and a former minister of the state continues to be in jail for their alleged involvement in the Saradha scam. Incidentally when Trinamool protested it had largely been alone but now it makes political sense for it to join forces with the principal opposition party. The party is acutely conscious of the fact that it was Congress president Sonia Gandhi herself who enlisted them in the present cause but the upcoming assembly elections would naturally be topmost in the minds of Trinamool strategists when they place themselves beside Congress.
Over the last few weeks there have been rumours about an electoral tie-up between Congress and Left in the state for the Assembly elections. Banerjee herself lent credence to those rumours when she told journalists on Tuesday: “In my state they (Congress) are with the Left, in some places they are also with BJP,” making it clear that as the incumbent chief minister her fight is against all political parties and not just the Left therefore taking away from the coalition that she had displaced after a 34-year rule even the prestige of being the main contender. But astute politician that she is Banerjee, especially after the BJP’s dismal show in the Bihar Assembly elections knows that she can ill afford the risk of an understanding between Left and Congress.
In the 2014 elections Trinamool that won 34 Lok sabha seats had a vote share of 39.30%, CPM had 22.70%, BJP 16.80% and Congress 9.60%. Seeking a second term Banerjee despite her largesse to neighbourhood clubs and involvement of Trinamool bigwigs in Durga Puja Committees faces inevitable anti-incumbency and had BJP emerged as a force to reckon with in the neighbouring state it would have been an effective splitter of the anti-incumbency votes. That possibility is all but non-existent now because in a state where the saffron party is already far less fancied than it was in pre-poll Bihar, a vote for BJP many would tend to regard as a vote wasted.