More than a day after the BJP announced that it would field West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as its vice-presidential candidate, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has not yet commented on the matter.
The party on Sunday also kept away from the Opposition meeting at the residence of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar in New Delhi at which former Union minister and governor Margaret Alva was chosen as the Opposition’s candidate for the vice-presidential election.
While several TMC leaders said that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would decide on the strategy following her meeting with all party MPs on July 21, the Opposition alleged that the Trinamool was reluctant to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the August 6 vice-presidential poll because of an understanding between the two.
A senior TMC functionary said the party was not as active in the selection process of the vice-presidential candidate because of realpolitik. If Dhankhar gets elected, the ruling party in the state will be rid of one of its most vocal critics.
“Our party supremo took the initiative in the presidential election because there were some possibilities of defeating BJP. But the developments in Maharashtra changed everything,” said the TMC leader. “The result of the vice-presidential election is known. Our party supremo is taking a diplomatic stand. If Dhankhar becomes the vice-president, that is a relief for the state government. So, we are happy. Also, we cannot fight the Central government on every issue. Sometimes, the party should take a go-slow policy and that is exactly what it is doing now.”
While there has been no official reaction to Dhankhar’s nomination or the TMC’s strategy for the vice-presidential election, some party leaders on Thursday took digs at the governor. Senior MP Saugata Roy said, “He (Dhankhar) has been nominated as the vice-presidential candidate as a reward for opposing TMC.”
MLA Tapas Roy said, “Since becoming the governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar has opposed the state government on various issues. He said things against our party and government on many issues that he should not have said as the governor. I hope that whoever is his replacement will support our government.”
State minister Chandrima Bhattacharya also took a dig at the governor. But party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh refused to comment on the matter. “The party supremo will announce the strategy after her meeting with all MPs on July 21,” he said.
The Opposition, meanwhile, accused the TMC of reaching a tacit understanding with the BJP on the vice-presidential election. Pointing to Banerjee’s recent meeting with Dhankhar and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Darjeeling, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “I am assuming that the TMC has a hidden coalition with the BJP. They do not want to displease the BJP leadership. Mamata Banerjee’s meeting with Jagdeep Dhankhar and Himanta Biswa Sarma and the announcement of Dhankhar’s candidature following that, and the overall silence of the party indicates that.”
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “When the Opposition’s presidential election candidate was to be chosen, Mamata Banerjee was proactive. In the case of the vice-presidential election, she has been silent since meeting Dhankhar and Sarma. Everybody knows why she is silent now.”
State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said he hoped the TMC would support Dhankhar. He pointed out that after former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu became the NDA’s presidential poll pick, the West Bengal CM said she might have considered supporting Murmu had the BJP made the announcement earlier.
“Dhankhar is our governor and a very successful governor at that. In the case of the vice-presidential candidate, the BJP announced Dhankhar’s name well in advance. So, I hope the TMC will support Dhankhar,” Majumdar added.