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Dharna propels Mamata as strong opposition leader

Saturday, February 09, 2019
By Prakash Bal Joshi

West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress Party chief Mamata Banerjee is known for her political dramatics and doggedness making her three-day Dharna in Kolkata most controversial. She was criticised for creating a constitutional crisis by protecting police commissioner from an arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Despite all odds and controversies, she tried to convert the CBI raids and an attempt to arrest police commissioner into a political event by seeking support from all her opposition party leaders against her fight with Modi government in Delhi. She accused the BJP of resorting to political blackmail by organising raids in West Bengal to investigate Saradha scam without taking the local administration into confidence.

CBI the scapegoat in Didi, NaMo spat
The acrimonious debate that sparked off with Mamata resorting to agitational approach towards clash between CBI and the Kolkata police pitted Mamata against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. No wonder with so much little time left for the general elections for the Lok Sabha, all those concerned with the mega fight in coming months joined the bandwagon to protest against the CBI move. The BJP took on the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata asking her why she was protecting one police officer and letting her own party MPs and MLAs being arrested in the same scam. They charged that she was protecting the police commissioner to protect herself as she was afraid that the officer in question may spill the beans and bring her into real trouble.

She has taken the fight to Delhi from Kolkata by involving all those who are opposed to Modi government by making it a political move.

Has she used the occasion to further enhance her chances of emerging as a consensus candidate for the fight against Modi as a combined opposition front leader? Many of her friends and foes think alike. She not merely took on the Modi administration with her guts but also sent another strong message to her allies in the opposition camp that she is the only leader who is not scared of taking on Modi and his government. It was not straight fight, but the way she stalled the CBI from taking action has also raised many serious fundamental questions regarding federal structure of governance but unmindful of what impact it will have on the administration she went ahead and launched a Dharna and opposed the CBI move.

She was the first one to declare that the issue of who should lead the Mahagathbandhan should be resolved after the results of the elections are declared on the basis of which party won the largest number of seats rather than decide it in advance. She had taken this stance when the Congress had tried to project Rahul Gandhi as the opposition candidate to take on Narendra Modi. However, in a subtle way she is trying to project herself as the most formidable opposition leader to take on the BJP in coming general elections for the Lok Sabha.   

She has converted the  CBI against the Kolkata police face-off into a political battle to give a stronger  message – that only she can fight and would not cow down before the Centre’s might.  She used her Dharna to parade opposition support to her battle against the union government, some of them came personally to support her some telephoned her some sent their own emissaries. She converted the Supreme Court ruling in her favour saying that the courts had asked the CBI not to arrest the police commissioner. She flaunted it as one more victory in her cap,

This is not for the first time, she has clashed with the centre during last four years.  TMC MPs like Kunal Ghosh, the party’s leader in Lok Sabha and former minister Sudip Bandopadhyay, Tapas Paul & Srinjoy Bose including her own transport minister Madan Mitra have been arrested in the Ponzi scheme. The BJP points out that she did nothing except giving warnings but when the police officer who was protecting her was about to be arrested, she has hit the street in agitational mode.

She is in a hurry to project herself as the only tough leader in opposition camp who can take on Modi Shah combine in coming elections. She has converted the fight into nationwide clash to create an image for herself.

The CBI has been investigating the Saradha chit fund fraud at the instance of the Supreme Court and blame the Kolkata police for undue delay in taking the case to further level of investigation. They point out that Kolkata police commission Rajiv Kumar who was earlier SIT chief to investigate the scam at the instance of the courts is not giving any cooperation and trying to destroy evidence in the case.

The BJP which is trying to expand its base in West Bengal are facing lots of trouble by the TMC workers who are putting all kinds of hurdles when the party wanted to organising a meeting for Amit Shah’s rathyatra and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath wanted to address a public rally in West Bengal.

She is a street fighter and she has challenged the BJP in the state creating an image of a fighter for herself.  Several regional straps and Chief Ministers including Andhra’s Chandrababu Naidu, Karnataka’s HD Kumaraswamy, and Odisha’s Navin Patnaik have voiced their support for Mamata Banerjee.

KCR, a silent player in national politics
It is no surprise that one equally ambitious regional leader Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar, who is also in the race for the top slot in a non-Congress Federal Front, has remained away from Mamata and her rhetoric. He is also silently working with an assumption that there will be hung parliament post 2019 general elections and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together could play a major role. He is also in the process of tying up with other regional leaders including Odisha chief minister Navin Patnaik.  

The TMC is planning a similar Dharna by inviting Chief Ministers of all like-minded parties at Delhi's Jantar Mantar over the alleged attack on the country's federal structure. Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Yadav Farukh Abdulla, Chandrababu Naidu have liked the idea.

No wonder it’s a power game by Mamata to show that most of the parties trying to set up Mahagathbandhan are supporting her in her fight against the central government. The question is how far it will take Mamata and the Mahagathbandhan? Will it decide the issue of who should lead the grand alliance? Will it lead further to formation of Mahagathbandhan and work out seat sharing formula? So far question has remained unanswered. It will certainly help Mamata to consolidate her own position within the opposition camp but it has not helped the proposed grand alliance in any way as regional parties are going ahead and arriving at seat sharing formulas with the parties they think are beneficial to their success without waiting for national level front. The way BSP and SP have reached an understanding for UP without waiting for the Congress has made it clear that in some of the most important states, it is going to be triangular contest in coming general elections.  
It was a photo opportunity for the Mahagathbandhan but a step forward for Mamata Banerjee.

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