Mamata meets Advani, triggers speculations

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Monday met BJP patriarch L K Advani at his residence for the first time after Narendra Modi became prime minister in May.

The meeting gave rise to speculations on the motive behind Banerjee's rare move at a time when she is under tremendous attack from the BJP following the Saradha scam and the Burdwan blasts. She ostensibly went to see Advani’s ailing wife Kamala.

BJP leader SidharthNath Singh, however, said, “It was just a courtesy call; no political angle in it.” 

Banerjee was a partner in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and had served as a Union minister, holding different portfolios, during former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, but walked out of the alliance after the 2002 Gujarat riots. 

Banerjee’s attempt to endear herself to isolated Advani after a prolonged gap is not new. BJP leaders recalled that after the surprise defeat of the Vajpayee-led NDA in 2004, she had called up Advani, who was brought back to head the demolarised BJP, describing him as a “gentleman”, ignoring her party, which wanted to maintain its distance from the Hindutva party. 

Banerjee was in the national capital to attend a function organised by Congress to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Congress' invitation to parties ideologically opposed to the BJP, including the Trinamool, JD(U) and the Left, is being viewed as realignment of political forces to counter Brand Modi.

Banerjee is said to be open to joining a secular front to confront the growing footprints of the BJP in the West Bengal. To convey that Bengal is important in his party’s scheme of things, Modi has inducted singer-turned-MP Babul Supriyo into his council of ministers.

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