Why Mamata is saying No to NaMO

Modi has lambasted Mamata’s parivartan in West Bengal as fake. Where does this take the political equation?

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Puja Bhattacharjee | April 14, 2014




In early February this year, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi made subtle overtures to the Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee while addressing a huge rally in the brigade parade grounds in Kolkata. In his address, Modi had panned the Left and the Congress but had a word of praise for Mamata. He had thanked the people of Bengal for ushering change by voting out the CPI (M) government. This came days after Mamata had criticized Modi at a rally in the same venue.

Immediately after Modi’s remarks, political analysts were busy assessing the situation. It had definitely opened up the possibility of a TMC-BJP alliance.

Meanwhile, minorities in Bengal were at edge. Mamata has generally been pro-minorities to the extent where she would cast out the majority in their favour. But if TMC allied with the ‘communal’ BJP, it would be bad news for them. There was no immediate response from the TMC. But the Left grabbed the opportunity and warned that a BJP government at the centre would be disastrous and an alliance with BJP would certainly spell doom for certain sections of the society. Minority voters had always Mamata’s strong point in winning elections. After an initial silence, Mamata resumed hitting out at Modi.

When his gesture failed to cut any ice with the mercurial Banerjee, Modi too started lambasting her, calling her parivartan fake. Mamata retaliated saying “those who are saying NaMo, NaMo, we are saying no-no, no-no. The BJP has a person with blood of innocents killed in riots in his hands”. With BJP changing stance, a whole new scenario emerges. BJP is widely predicted to come in power at the center. Had Mamata accepted the olive branch, she would have lost some voter base but would have stood to gain in other ways. But Mamata chose to retain her core vote-base. So this shows that she is still focusing on West Bengal. There are 24.9 million Muslims in West Bengal, a 27 percent of the total population of the state. The state assembly elections are due in a few years. Mamata had wrestled control of the state government after decades of being in the opposition. She is in no mood to give up her hard earned work.

Besides, she was never known to get on amicably with other parties in an alliance. Didi is known to be an authoritarian leader for whom it is absolutely mandatory that her word be the last word. She did not go running to other parties for an alliance after her Delhi rally flopped. She displays perseverance, the same kind which ousted 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal.

As a Left leader Gautam Deb put it, Mamata is still in her honeymoon period after her sweet victory in 2011. And she plans to stretch that honeymoon.

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