Bengal CM fears loss of a well-cultivated vote bank
New Delhi: Ever since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published in Assam, Bengal Chief Minister has been hopping mad and angry.
There is good reason. One of her biggest vote banks in her state is the migrant Bengali population from Bangladesh comprising predominantly of Muslims. This is under threat now.
After Assam, the BJP government at the Centre is planning to move to Bengal to weed out immigrants (read Muslims). The BJP is aware that without targeting this vote bank of Mamata, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) will be invincible.
After NRC scrapped citizenship of over 40 lakh people in Assam, Mamata was quick to give them refuge in her state. But the moment it was made clear that these 40 lakh people stand to lose voting rights, Mamata went silent.
Mamata has been winning Bengal mainly because of a well-cultivated vote bank comprising mostly Muslim population. If there is any erosion in this, she is gone.
The BJP is also keen on smoking her out of her comfort zone in Bengal. This is why the BJP is indirectly prodding her to take on a national role. If Mamata moves out of Bengal, the TMC will collapse.
The BJP is also keen on keeping Mamata on her toes. The more she rants against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the more and quicker will be the process of Hindu vote bank consolidation.
But Mamata is clever not to fall into the trap. She has made clear two things: that she does not have prime ministerial ambitions and, secondly, she is ready to dine with anyone who is anti-Modi. She is now getting warm to the Congress which had an informal understanding with the CPM in Bengal to defeat her in the last elections.
This is the background of Mamata Banerjee’s announcement on Wednesday that the Opposition parties would face next year’s Lok Sabha elections under a “collective leadership” as they aim to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power.
She made it clear that she is not aspiring to be a PM candidate. She has more than a plate full in Bengal.
On Wednesday, she met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi to talk about the current political situation and the 2019 election. When asked about the possibility of an alliance in 2019, she said “All Opposition parties will come together. Our priority is to defeat the BJP. We will fight under a collective leadership.”
Her emphasis on collective leadership also comes barely a week after Congress president Rahul Gandhi told Modi in Parliament that “all Opposition parties and some of your friends are coming together to defeat” the BJP during the debate on the no confidence motion.
Mamata quoted the poet Rabindranath Tagore to describe the nature of the coalition: “One of his songs say we all are kings. That will be the nature of the Opposition unity. You can see the BJP is politically nervous because they know they will not return to power in 2019.”
Her plan is that the strongest Opposition party in a given constituency should contest from there. But how fare this will succeed when it comes to seat sharing is to be seen, especially in UP and Bihar.
The meeting with Sonia Gandhi also signifies that even as the Congress and the Trinamool are at the loggerheads in the Bengal politics, the two sides are keeping their options open for an understanding at the national level.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Collective leadership means that we will fight collectively. I think it’s a good suggestion and correct approach. The finer details have to be worked out at an appropriate time.”
Two years ago, the Congress high command allowed its local unit to informally tie up with the CPI(M)-led Left Front for the state assembly polls. The meeting on Wednesday also indicates that the principal Opposition party is ready to talk with the Trinamool with the Left Front reduced to the margins.
The chief minister also raked up the NRC issue to say that the 4 million people whose names are missing from the citizenship list “belong to states like Bihar, West Bengal, UP and Tamil Nadu”.