New Delhi: The five-day ‘Dilli mission’ of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee did not fructify into as much success as she had anticipated and thus her body language and words at the departure time was a tell it all saga.
The inability to fructify a strong ‘anti-Modi’ front is reflected in her final words.
“Aap aisa baat baar baar mat kijiye. Ek hi baat kijiye ki desh ko bachana hae (Do not keep asking me one and same question repeatedly. Please let us all focus on saving the country)?,” Mamata remarked at the last media interaction in the capital shortly before she caught the flight to Kolkata.
BJP general secretary B L Santhosh aptly made a veiled attack on media.
“A CM comes to Delhi. After some political activities, she returns to her home state thanking ‘ media ‘ for cooperation. Not one self-proclaimed torchbearers free speech & democracy questions her on political violence & brutal killings in her home state,” he tweeted.
Delhi media was more than keen to see her emerge as a chief rival to Modi.
Despite all these, a major reflection of her anguish was found in Trinamool’s renewed Tripura strategy.
Shortly after Mamata held a closed-door meeting with Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi; her trusted party colleagues had landed in Agartala and took a small splinter group of Congress into the party fold. Reportedly, the mother-son (Sonia Gandhi-Rahul) duo was still reluctant to ‘crown’ her as the opposition face. Her meeting with Kamal Nath and Anand Sharma over tea also did not give her an edge. So the target is Congress Tripura, which is again a zero-MLA strong party.
Among those who joined Trinamool included Subal Bhowmick, a regular turncoat in Tripura politics and who has done business with Congress and BJP. Some senior BJP MLAs in Agartala declined audience to Trinamool leaders and also told categorically told them that they are ‘not ready to jump the ship. In fact, some Tripura Ministers and MLAs in the saffron party now are from Congress and Trinamool Congress only. The ‘Tripura battle’ has become more serious for Mamata vis-a-vis her personal ambition of 2024 – as doing well in the northeastern state with 60 legislators would help her to retain national party status.
But in Delhi, what goes to strengthen the argument that Mamata’s ‘Dilli tour’ did not yield expected results was first lack of consensus to present herself as the chief rival (claimant) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the most frustrating part was NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar declining the audience. Her party colleagues have taken a line that because Central Hall of Parliament is closed due to Covid, some meetings could not take place.
The fact of the matter is no meeting between top political leaders can be prevented just on the issue of venue or so called pandemic restrictions.
She was apparently toying with the idea of making Pawar the ‘chairman’ of a joint anti-Modi platform. For his part, Pawar has given his mixed signals. Firstly, Pawar is much more senior to Mamata both in age and in political experience in their original ‘party’ the Congress.
So, he is not happy to see Mamata arrive Delhi and ‘honour’ him with some kind of decorative chairmanship. The Maratha strongman knows what to ‘demand’ and ‘how’ to get it too.
Secondly, just on the eve of the Parliament session, Pawar met Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Leader of the Rajya Sabha, and importantly the Prime Minister himself. Pawar also attended the ‘floor leaders’ meeting convened by Modi wherein the Covid19 management issue figured.
Grapevine is that in 2022, some ‘working formula’ could emerge between NCP and BJP especially after the dust of UP’s electoral battle is settled. In UP, NCP is not a formidable force and here everyone would be keen to see how things unfold for two other third front players – the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. Mamata would get serious competition too.
Another factor that might have led to ‘frustration’ in the Mamata camp is the ‘matured and cool’ manner in the BJP leadership handled her Delhi trip. She expected ‘confrontation’ to scream that the country’s ruling dispensation is scared of her. Knowing it well that often Netas can thrive amid ‘confrontation’, the Prime Minister himself ensured that no unnecessary confrontation is drawn out despite the fact that only a few months back, Mamata had declined to attend a natural calamity related meeting with Prime Minister Modi in her own state.
In Delhi, the Prime Minister gave her an audience and when she entered the room in front of cameras, he also courteously ‘folded hands’. The 40-minute meeting was real courteous where she only put forward her demands. Nothing much really happened. Realising the mood of the media, her trusted lieutenant Derek O’ Brien with all his smiles rushed to a Noida studio of a TV channel (which is generally not the typical anti-Modi type).
He sounded ‘big’ at times talking about 2024 Lok Sabha polls; but when it came to a question to justify why Mamata quit Congress in 1997 and is now happy to play alliance politics, the vocal lawmaker virtually fumbled.
His parliamentary debating ad language skills and expertise in Quiz did not come to Mamata’s help either. Hence focus is now on Tripura – where Mamata had actually frustrated her party leaders in 2016 when she dialled Marxist Sitaram Yechury after demonetisation was announced. All six then Trinamool legislators within weeks told Mukul Roy flatly they cannot do any business with someone who is befriending communists.
So, all of them subsequently joined the BJP and gradually a strong ‘wave’ for ‘Chalo Paltai’ (Let us Change it all) slogan was created in favour of the saffron camp.
Mamata would be targeting more Congress units in various states.