A DAY after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her support to the BJP for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Trinamool Congress remained abuzz with the possibilities of what this could mean for Mamata in the national political scene.
After receiving a massive mandate in the recently concluded Assembly elections, Mamata is now looking at Delhi, and is keen on playing a larger role in national politics, party officials said.
“Her victory and the Modi government’s increasing troubles at the Rajya Sabha has elevated Mamata to a major player in national politics. It is inevitable that she will utilise this situation to her benefit. She is nothing, if not an extremely intelligent politician,” said a party leader requesting anonymity.
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For Mamata’s swearing-in ceremony, she had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, the King of Bhutan, Union ministers and chief ministers of several states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and Tamil Nadu, indicating her increasing influence at the national level. It is worth mentioning that soon after the polls, Mamata’s party emerged as the prime opposition party in the state.
A senior party leader explained that both Tripura and Bengal share borders with Bangladesh, and developments in the Centre’s ‘Look East policy’ would have to give the TMC due credence.
Party leaders believe that Mamata will bargain hard and work on achieving tangible results. “For instance, Mamata has hinted that she is willing to reconsider on the issue of Teesta water sharing, which has been opposed by her in the past during the previous UPA government. Recently, she spoke to representatives of the Bangladesh government about this and gave a positive signal,” said the leader cited earlier. Her softening of stance will in turn bring relief to the state’s debt burden, which remains to be addressed by the central government.
In a letter to the PM in November, last year, the CM had made the case for giving the state “a complete debt waiver for it to escape from the veritable debt trap left behind by the previous Left Front government”. She had added that “restructuring of centrally sponsored schemes by the Centre completely wipes out any financial gain, which would have been accrued by the state on account of higher devolution from 32 per cent to 42 per cent as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission.” This, party officials, maintained is likely to remain her prime demand.
Recently, Mamata had written another letter to Modi over the Centre’s decision to reduce allocation of kerosene to the state. “The decision will cause grave distress to the consumers in remote and tribal areas and will adversely affect the poor, SC, ST, minorities and economically weaker sections of the society,” the letter read.
The Left and the Congress in the state are far less convinced of Mamata’s attempt to put Bengal on the national map. While declaring her support for the GST as nothing short of “proof of an existing tacit understanding” with the Centre, CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra tweeted: “CM responds to BJP’s gratitude! Reiterates her commitment of issue based support to Modi govt! Broad based unity against TMC-BJP nexus is the answer.”