By Karan Anand
Speaking at a core Trinamool Congress (TMC) committee meeting in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee told her TMC leaders that they were free to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as “it is their own personal choice.” The statement came following the rumours that BJP was trying to poach senior TMC leaders to make in-roads in West Bengal. Rumours of TMC leaders defecting to join BJP began surfacing very prominently after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate began cracking down on them following their links with the Narada sting operation. With this statement, Mamata gave a loud and clear message to BJP that she is not afraid of them.
Mamata will not remain silent
Over the years, Mamata has been one of the strongest opponents of Modi led BJP. Unlike Congress, she has shown that she will not remain silent when BJP tries to poach her party leaders. Last week, TMC replaced its senior party leader, Mukul Roy, from the parliamentary consultative committee of the Home Ministry. Roy was considered the right hand of Mamata and was a very prominent voice in the party. His slide started when the news of his hobnobbing with BJP leaders reached the chief minister Mamata Banerjee. He was also stripped of the chairmanship of the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture. He was replaced by TMC Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien.
BJP continue their poaching
BJP trying to poach opposition members is nothing new. They have been successfully implementing this strategy for a long time now. In 2016, former Uttarakhand CM and a senior Congress leader Vijay Bahugana joined BJP. Former Congress UP state chief Rita Bahugana Joshi also defected to BJP in 2016. In 2017, former Karnataka CM, another notable Congress leader, SM Krishna joined BJP. Even last month during Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, BJP tried poached several Congress leaders. Due to a shortage of strong regional leaders, BJP has been continuously poaching strong leaders from other parties.
Is Mamata to lead a united opposition
Mamata has been one of the strongest critiques of the Modi government. Last year, when Nitish Kumar suggested the idea of a united opposition against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2019, Mamata was one of the first leaders with a pan-India appeal to come out and openly endorse the idea. However, after Nitish jumped the ship to join NDA in July this year, Mamata is considered the only capable leader to lead a united opposition. Barring the two national parties, TMC has the second highest number of members in the parliament right now with 34 in Lok Sabha and 12 in Rajya Sabha. AIADMK has 37 in Lok Sabha and 13 in Rajya Sabha but by voting for Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential elections, they have already declared an informal alliance with NDA.
That being said, the possibility of Mamata becoming the leader of a united opposition is still theoretical. She may win the temporary support of Lalu Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik, Arvind Kejriwal and Mayawati but Congress veterans may find it difficult to accept her as the leader of this imaginary alliance. An even bigger obstacle for her will be the corruption allegations laid on several party members including her nephew. CBI is investigating the involvement of TMC leaders in the Saradha and rose valley scams.
The situation right now
BJP, having swept more than half the states in the country, is targeting Bengal next. To win Bengal they need strong regional leaders which they lack. Keeping that in mind, they are trying to poach TMC leaders. Mamata Banerjee being the strong leader that she is, will not shy away from the challenge and will take the BJP head on. Talking about Mamata’s national ambitions, a Congress general secretary says, “The BJP may use the CBI against her, forcing her to abandon any national ambitions.” As of now, any talks of a united opposition have died down.
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