How Mamata used her anti-CBI dharna to outwit rivals

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the dharna over the CBI's attempt to question the Kolkata Police commissioner in connection with chit fund scams, in Kolkata. PTI

The chit fund scam has always stuck out like a sore thumb amid the electoral dominance of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The arrest of senior TMC leaders by CBI earlier had provided fresh ammunition to the CPM and BJP against Banerjee.

But on February 3, when CBI officials tried to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar at his residence in relation to the chit fund scam, the TMC supremo latched on to the opportunity and turned a legal issue into a BJP-versus-united Opposition fight.

Moreover, she ensured that her dharna against the CBI is carried out in such a manner that she can easily project herself as the de facto leader of the united Opposition and the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Her sudden but well-planned decision to sit on a dharna against the CBI's actions took her rivals by surprise.

Instead of having a new opportunity to corner the West Bengal Chief Minister over the chit fund scam, both the CPM and BJP were clueless how to respond.

So far, the response of both the parties have been limited to the allegation that Mamata was obstructing investigation into the chit fund scam and trying to shield those who are involved in it.

"Both CPM and BJP are flummoxed with the chief minister's actions. They don't know how to react to it," a senior TMC leader told DH.

While the CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra asked whether the CBI-Kolkata Police standoff was "shadow boxing" between the TMC and BJP to divert public attention from the Left Front’s recent mega rally, BJP’s response has been limited to accusing Mamata of shielding the corrupt.

"By sitting on this dharna against CBI’s actions, Mamata Banerjee has kept alive the momentum of her mega Opposition rally in Kolkata on January 19. Not only did she gain support from the likes of Rahul Gandhi and N Chandrababu Naidu but successfully overshadowed the Left Front’s mega rally," Maidul Islam, a political analyst and a faculty member of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Kolkata told DH.

He also argued out that despite issues such as the chit fund scam, voters in rural Bengal are still strongly behind Banerjee due to her populist measures. 

"While CPM is still struggling to restructure its organisation, the BJP is yet to have a mass leader to take on the West Bengal chief minister. Unless they can eat into Banerjee's mass support and rival the organisational clout of the TMC, they are unlikely to cause any serious problems for her," said Islam.

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