Mamata’s road to Delhi littered with hurdles
It is not unusual for any state leader having won the state assembly elections three times and more to nurture the same dream at the Centre. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is the latest to have been bitten by this bug. But there always remain many slips between the cup and the lips. To be acceptable as a leader at the national level is never that easy.
In politics anything, everything can happen; nothing to worry about, nothing to get surprised, wonder about it.
As per the Constitution of India, a Prime Minister is appointed by the President of India at the Centre and a chief minister by the Governor of the State. Yet this does not mean that the President or the Governor can make anybody prime minister or chief minister. They do ensure that the person elected as leader of the majority party or alliance enjoys majority support in the house. If there is any doubt, he fixes the period within which he must prove majority in the house.
But unique instances are also there. Independents too have been able to make their mark by assuming the office of chief minister — Madhu Koda in Jharkhand (2006-08) as a nominee of the UPA, Bishwanath Das in Odisha in 1971 and Flinder Anderson Khonglam in Meghalaya in 2002.
The general elections to Parliament in 1996 gave a fractured verdict with BJP emerging as the single largest party. On the invitation of the President of India BJP did form a government at the Centre but failed to garner support from other groups with the result that the first BJP government headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to resign.
A 13-party alliance christened as United Front (UF) was formed with the outside support of the Congress. But it failed to agree on somebody from its constituents to head the government. Ultimately, the Front chose the Karnataka CM HD Deve Gowda to shift to Delhi to head it as the Prime Minister.
These happenings in the field of politics since the birth of the phenomenon of coalition governments have instilled a lurking aspiration in the mind of every politician in the country that, given a chance, he could emerge a good prime minister or chief minister.
The emergence of Shri Narendra Modi after a reign of 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat to lead the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a charismatic clear majority in parliamentary elections in 2014 at the Centre and some States after 30 years has shattered the dreams of many State politicians to one day manipulate to occupy the august office of the prime minister.
At one stage, the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did play with his dreams to be the Prime Minister. But now he has publicly disbanded it.
At one time or the other, BSP supremo Ms. Mayawati and others too toyed with this idea. The Maharashtra strongman and National Congress Party supremo was not wrong to aim at being at the centre stage of politics in Delhi.
The thumping majority the people of West Bengal (WB) gave to Mamata Banerjee for the third time in succession in the recent assembly elections in April 2021 has ignited the ambition to emerge as the prime ministerial candidate of a non-BJP alliance. With this end in view, she is now trying to spread Trinamool Congress (TMC) wings to other states. Some eminent leaders from Goa, Punjab, Tripura, etc, have made their way to her party.
It is beyond the point that during last WB legislative elections she raised the bogey of baahri (outsiders) having come to WB to unsettle her and the party. When she will now go to Manipur, Goa etc. to campaign for her party, would the same charge not be hurled at her?
Now she has started visiting the national capital New Delhi and the country’s financial capital. Mumbai. During her Delhi visit, she could not catch any big fish. She did not meet INC President Sonia Gandhi. When some media persons asked her about it, she bluntly said, it is not “constitutionally mandated” to meet Sonia Gandhi every time she visits Delhi.
Ms. Mamata’s avoiding a meeting with Mrs. Gandhi also seems to be prompted by the fact of many Congress MLAs and other leaders having quit Congress and joined TMC.
WB CM Mamata tried to make a big catch in the troubled waters of Maharashtra politics. She had a meeting with Maratha stalwart and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. In the latter’s presence she said, “there is no UPA now”. It will be “very easy to defeat the BJP if “all regional parties are together”. Without taking the name of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi she said “you can’t be abroad most of the time”. To fight the “environment of fascism” in the country today “a strong alternative needs to be given against it. Nobody can do it alone. Those who are strong should be taken together,” she said. She was very confident that it will be “very easy to defeat the BJP” if “all regional parties are together”.
NCP response to Ms. Mamta remained mute. But the Shiv Sena did come out openly in support of the Congress. In its party daily Saamna the Sena said creating an opposition alliance parallel to UPA sans Congress would be akin to strengthening BJP and ‘fascist’ forces”.
Ms. Mamata did meet film personalities like Shahrukh Khan and others who were not favourably inclined towards the NDA though they did not say anything publicly.
Earlier, Ms. Banerjee had also visited Kerala and some other south Indian States. She seems not to have made any serious dent in Kerala because of the strange alliance of political parties in Kerala and West Bengal. In WB Congress and CPM made strange political bedfellows while in Kerala they are at daggers drawn.
Samajwadi Party chief and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav too was not that responsive. He told the media that his party would decide for any alliance
with TMC at the appropriate time. He also did not say whether he would invite Ms. Mamata to campaign for his party in the coming UP assembly elections.
What is more important is the fact that the opposition parties may like to come together to fight BJP and NDA but the point of no agreement will always remain the leadership. Ms. Banerjee needs to understand that India is no West Bengal and West Bengal is no India. She may, ultimately, win to forge an alliance with some parties but any conglomeration will remain divisive on the point of leadership.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator.)