Mamata method: Scuttle Rahul's 'innate' right to be PM

Mamata's method: To scuttle Rahul's 'innate' right to be PM

It appears regional leaders are not prepared to surrender in perpetuity the PM's seat to the Congress

Mamata Banerjee meets NCP's Sharad Pawar in Mumbai. Credit: PTI Photo

Just after her historic victory in West Bengal elections, Mamata Banerjee vowed to be the prime mover of the united opposition in the country and met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. It galvanised the entire anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) populace seeking to defeat Narendra Modi and his party.

But then something inexplicable happened, and the Trinamool Congress started preying upon leaders of the parties from the opposition itself. Though the Congress emerged as Mamata Banerjee's prime target, the Trinamool Congress did not spare other opposition parties.

The poaching started with Sushmita Dev of Assam/Tripura. Luizinho Faleiro of Goa was added, and now Mukul Sangma of Meghalaya has been roped in along with his 11 legislators, replacing the Congress with the TMC as the main opposition party in the state. Next, it was Janata Dal (United) that saw Pawan Verma walking away to the TMC. The waiting list, it can be safely assumed, will have more exciting names.

Meanwhile, in Tripura, the CPI(M) has suffered in the recent municipal polls that saw the TMC finishing number three, snapping at the heels of the party that once prided on being the largest Communist party of the free world. It still has that status but is losing out everywhere except in Kerala. Interestingly, both the JD(U) and CPI(M) have better relations with the Congress than the TMC.

Also Read — Turf war in Opposition camp as Trinamool Congress, Congress trade barbs

The political paradigm has shifted. Earlier the TMC used to target discontented former, or lapsed, BJP leaders for poaching, and the best example of this was Yashwant Sinha of Jharkhand. Now, except in Bengal, the Congress and CPI(M) have alleged the TMC is doing it at the behest of the BJP to save Abhishek Banerjee from the CBI's clutches.

It is not rocket science to understand that an anti-BJP front cannot shape up as a meaningful entity without the Congress. In several states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Gujarat, the Congress is the sole force against the BJP. In several other states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam or Goa, it is the leading force against the BJP. In states like Jharkhand, it is a significant junior partner of the anti-BJP camp.

The Congress is a significant player in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as an opposition party against regional forces, including the CPI(M). So, altogether, it still has a strong presence in about 200 of 543 seats of the Lok Sabha and has about 20 per cent vote share, which is far above any other opposition party. That makes the grand old party a natural leader of the opposition forces.

The Trinamool agenda

So what is it that the TMC is trying to achieve? Why are some people entertaining such a tricky effort? On Tuesday, Mamata Banerjee landed in Mumbai and met with Shiv Sena's Aditya Thackeray (since his father, Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, was indisposed). She met Sharad Pawar on Wednesday. Some others like Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav have a good equation with Bengal's Didi.

The only plausible explanation of the TMC's recent activities can be its attempt to forge a regional front that will combine all the anti-BJP regional parties. Indeed such a front can never displace the BJP from New Delhi if it does not have the support of the Congress. But the obverse is true as well.

Also Read — Ahead of 2024 polls, Mamata emerging as leader with a vision, says Sushmita Dev

It appears the TMC, and many other regional leaders, are not prepared to surrender the prime minister's seat to the Congress in perpetuity. The main driving force here is, of course, personal ambition, but it is not all. Most of these leaders are not keen to elevate Rahul Gandhi to the topmost seat.

As both points merge perfectly with the mindset of quite a few ambitious leaders of the regional parties, Didi's game is gaining ground. All these leaders feel Rahul Gandhi is arrogant, uncompromising and incompetent. And he is young, just 51 years old. So, once he establishes his right over Delhi's seat, perhaps it will stay with him for at least a few decades.

So TMC's game plan is to establish the regional front's (Mamata Banerjee once proposed "Federal Front" as its name) equal right over the seat of the Union government. At present, she has stature and age (66 years). If Rahul Gandhi gives up, Mamata Banerjee will be the natural choice for the face against Narendra Modi in 2024, as other stalwarts like Sharad Pawar will not have age on their side.

The second most ambitious leader in the opposition fold is Arvind Kejriwal, who is 53-years-old and in the near future, the AAP could emerge much more significant than it is now. And he will be on board with Didi, for if a strong Federal Front emerges, probably he will be its natural leader in the next decade. The same is true for a lot of sons and daughters of various regional family-based parties. It makes Mamata Banerjee's game plan alluring. But it is risky, too, as it may portray the opposition as an unstable house and work favouring the BJP.

(The writer is a journalist and author based in Kolkata)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

Watch the latest DH Videos here: