What Made Mamta Banerjee To Distance Herself From Congress And Left On CAA-NRC Issues?

caa nrc

After the bill of CAA got passed in parliament on 11th December 2019, since then all the opposition parties had united and were protesting against the bill, though the bill was very clear and was successfully passed in both the houses, but, the agony remained on the several issues which the government could achieve success in it like – Article 370, Ayodhya issue, improvement in defence services, CAA etc., this feared all the opposition parties and the cumulative effect of the opposition busted out when the CAA was passed in the parliament.

The Congress, led by its president Sonia Gandhi, on Monday (13.01.2020) held a meeting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed NRC. The agenda of the meeting at the Parliament complex was meant to unite the opposition against the BJP, but it exposed the fault lines amongst the Opposition itself. The chief leaders such as Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, DMK chief MK Stalin and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stayed away.

The problem is that the Opposition parties were together on national issues, but divided into their various states. That was the reason it became difficult to assemble all of them on a common front; they had focused their local interests first.

On this behaviour, the Congress party was obviously unhappy. It accused the regional outfits of putting own interests ahead of ‘national’ interest. In return, the regional parties accused the Congress of trying to capture the movement and takeover the credit.

It is apparent that Opposition unity is troubled by the loss of mutual trust, but some motivations are deep-rooted. Like Mamata Banerjee.

The TMC supremo’s absence was most interesting among all the absentees because her motivations are not immediately apparent. The Congress is not a player of importance in West Bengal, unlike New Delhi, and hence Mamata was not driven by any pressure, that faced even Kejriwal. Since the Delhi elections are a three-way fight between the ruling AAP, BJP and Congress, any interaction with Congress on CAA/NRC may damage Kejriwal’s chances of getting re-elected.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are distrustful of Congress for different reasons. The SP still believes that its alliance with Congress during 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections was a mistake that has caused it lasting harm. ‘Behenji’ Mayawati is still upset with Congress for trying to steal her MLAs in Rajasthan.

But a different game is played by Mamata, under the guidance of poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Few will give confidence to her public statement that she chose to stay away because the Left and Congress set free violence in the state during the 9th January 2020, trade union strike. The nationwide strike saw Congress and Left activists clash with the police in Bengal but stray incidents of violence and arson or laying down of a few crude bombs on railway tracks are unlikely to have caused Mamata to take such a drastic step.

It is in question; will a marginalised CPIM and a struggling Congress possess enough power to “ruin” Bengal’s economy through a strike call? This is a fantastic theory as Mamata’s stated reason behind boycotting the Congress-led Opposition meeting in New Delhi against CAA/NRC. She said she had decided to boycott the meeting organized by Sonia Gandhi on 13th January 2020, in New Delhi as she does not support the violence that the Left and Congress allowed to run riot in West Bengal on Wednesday (15.01.2020). She also told not to teach her the method of fighting for CAA. If needed, she will fight alone.

Some commentators have interpreted this issue as it was Mamata’s attempt to not to give the credit for anti-CAA protests to Congress and would not surrender the leadership space on this issue to Sonia Gandhi. Mamata’s calculations on the same issues are different.

But the local CPIM and Congress leaders alleged that the chief minister is “hand in glove” with the BJP and is acting at Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s command, when she had decided not to attend the anti-CAA meeting in New Delhi and was stuck hard on strikers on 9th January 2020.

This attitude in Bengal had given an idea about the political game underway in West Bengal. Mamata’s had always been trying publicly to put some distance between the TMC and CPM-Congress alliance in the state. It is her clever attempt at reinvigorating the struggling political forces such that the anti-TMC vote gets split as an alternative of getting all in the favour of BJP, which became very clear during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections where the BJP emerged as the principal opposition force in the state with 18 out of 42 seats.

The central elections resulted in an overwhelming return mandate for Modi-led NDA government, showed BJP’s vote share had shot up to 40.2 percent from 17 per cent in 2014. While TMC’s seats crashed to 22, its vote share remained intact, even registering an increase from 39.7 percent in 2014 to 43.3 percent in 2019. This was quite clear that TMC suffered due to a consolidation of anti-TMC votes to BJP’s corner. The Left Front’s vote share crashed to 7.5 percent in 2019 from nearly 30 percent in 2014, while Congress also recorded a decline from 9.6 per cent to 5.5 percent.

It is assumed that Mamata would have carefully analysed the results, and so did the Congress and Left. But the last two is expected to form an alliance in 2021 Assembly polls, which may not be enough if their vote share continues to lose. In addition to the above, it is bad news for Mamata, that the presence of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM cutting into her Muslim vote bank.

With this calculation, Magmata thought of playing a pantomime of faux rivalry with them, so that at least a bit of anti-TMC votes move away from BJP. That’s was the reason Mamata won’t mind even when the Left and Congress accuse her of being in a “secret agreement with the BJP because it will serve her purpose too. She might even encourage such a charge and would take such risk willingly.

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