By bappaditya paul
Trinamul Congress’ volte-face on the Lokpal Bill ~ the latest in a series of standoffs with the Congress that commenced with the Teesta water issue ~ is probably an indication that Miss Mamata Banerjee is laying the groundwork for a split with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
This proposition gains strength from the fact that, in the past few months, the BJP and the Trinamul Congress were often found to be on the same page, be it in opposition to a fuel price hike, the Pension Bill, FDI in multi-brand retail, or Lokpal ~ all of which only embarrassed the UPA’s lead partner, the Congress.
The Congress leadership in West Bengal today minced no words, saying that “Trinamul is trying to get closer to the BJP.” The national leadership of the BJP, though cautious, did not rule out the possibility of the Trinamul re-joining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the days to come.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Mr Pradeep Bhattacharya told The Statesman that the Trinamul is trying to get closer to the BJP to reposition itself for a putative changed equation in the power scenario at Centre. “Beginning with the Teesta water sharing issue the Trinamul has been creating uncalled for trouble for us on almost every front,” he said.
BJP leader Mr Arun Jaitely declined to comment to The Statesman on the possibility of the Trinamul supporting the NDA in the future, as did BJP national spokesman Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Mr Rudy, however, said Miss Banerjee’s objections to the price rise, FDI in multi-brand retail, and the Pension Bill “reflected her concern for the people of her state.”
“As far as the FDI issue goes, like many other state governments in the country, Miss Banerjee, too, felt concerned over the likely losses to unorganised retailers in Bengal and, when it comes to opposition to the price rise, I don’t think any chief minister can be happy when her people are suffering,” Mr Rudy said. “Hence, she was right in raising her voice at the right moment.”
But that there is more to the “coincidental” similarity between the stance of the BJP and the Trinamul on several prominent issues, was evident from BJP leaders Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Kirti Azad paying a visit to Miss Banerjee’s house in Kolkata after the death of her mother on 17 December.
Now, taking a cue from the latest fiasco over the Lokpal, Pradesh Congress president Mr Bhattacharya said his party would “confront the Trinamul government” in Bengal on every issue of concern. “We are not thinking of pulling out from the Trinamul government right now, but I can say this for sure: that Congress is not in any way benefiting by being a part of Miss Banerjee’s government,” he said.
Unfazed by the criticism from the Congress, Trinamul leader and Union minister Mr Mukul Roy said: “Both the Trinamul and the Congress fought the elections on separate manifestos and our commitments are different. Congress must realise that the UPA at the Centre is a coalition government and not a single party rule. Let us make it clear that, be it the Lokpal or other contentious issues, we will stick to our stands come what may.”
Mr Roy continued: “Despite our repeated requests, the Congress has not yet put in place a coordination mechanism for the smooth running of the UPA government.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report originally appeared in The Statesman on 31 December 2011 under a different headline.)