Softening on Narendra Modi, RSS and likely on Congress: Where is Mamata Banerjee's politics headed towards?

Sayantan Ghosh
30 Sep 2022
Softening on Narendra Modi, RSS and likely on Congress: Where is Mamata Banerjee's politics headed towards?

Kolkata: The growing number of graft allegations against Mamata Banerjee's associates and the party, as well as the rise in violent incidents in the state, have all had a significant impact on her politics in recent months. The comment made by veteran NCP leader Sharad Pawar that Mamata Banerjee will consider softening her stand against Congress clearly sends a message that she is trying to change her political line in many ways, despite the fact that some political observers think she is deliberately becoming more lenient toward the RSS and the Prime Minister himself.

Recently Mamata Banerjee not only praised PM Narendra Modi but also observed that not everyone is bad within the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Mamata Banerjee's rise resulted from her repeated political conflicts with the Communist Party of India Marxist. The CPIM and the left-wing regime were two distinct political establishments to be opposed. In terms of influence and power, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its political establishment are very different ideologically and culturally. Great street fighter Mamata Banerjee handled the Bharatiya Janata Party the same way she handled the left. But the TMC is realising that taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party will require a different strategy, which is why Mamata Banerjee's political stance is rapidly evolving.

However, Banerjee is not in a rush to change the entire stance overnight, which is why she occasionally sends out conflicting signals. Additionally, it's crucial to recognise that Banerjee is a completely different kind of politician from other opposition figures. She doesn't just say what's on her mind; she also speaks in a particular way. Understanding political signals is therefore essential.

Shift focus from attacking Narendra Modi

A fraction of the TMC leadership thinks Mamata Banerjee has finally realised that she cannot continue to criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi while fighting the BJP and securing the future of her state. The TMC leaders do believe that many politicians, primarily in the opposition, have recently come to the realisation that continuously criticising the prime minister will not win over voters.

According to a senior TMC leader who wished to remain unnamed, "The political stance of every political party shifts from time to time. The fight of the TMC currently is against the Bharatiya Janata Party. But at the same time, Didi is running a massive state like West Bengal. We are aware that the BJP is a certain type of party that enjoys exacting revenge. She made the aforementioned remarks as an administrator because Mr Modi and Ms Banerjee were both administrators."

In the Bengal Assembly a week ago, Banerjee declared: "Businessmen are fleeing the country. They are evacuating due to fear and abuse of the CBI and ED (Enforcement Directorate) (Central Bureau of Investigation). I don't think Modi did this."

Political observers in Bengal believe that the new strategy of Mamata Banerjee is targeting Home Minister Amit Shah and the Bharatiya Janata Party instead of targeting the Prime Minister. This is the same tactic that earlier Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal took. Kejriwal used to criticise Modi harshly in the early days of his political career, but his position has since shifted. Political observers believe that this change of stand helped Kejriwal to gain a lot of BJP votes in Delhi. Now, when Kejriwal is in Gujarat, he is not directly attacking the prime minister but the government.

Can Mamata change her stand against BJP as well?

Mamata Banerjee has come under fire from the CPM and Congress for giving Prime Minister Modi the "clean chit." She was a member of the National Democratic Alliance, which was led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, the opposition has recalled. These, according to many CPIM and congress leaders, are also signs that Mamata Banerjee will eventually align herself with the BJP.

The Hindu quoted the CPIM mouthpiece which noted, “such dalliance with the Sangh-BJP combine should not come as a surprise. The rise of the Trinamool Congress as an anti-Communist force in West Bengal is a record punctuated by alliances with the BJP including Mamata Banerjee being a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government.”

The TMC leaders, on the other hand, don't think there is any chance of a party alliance with the saffron party. Under the condition of anonymity, a senior TMC official stated, "Our party's political position is crystal clear in that we are fighting against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Through her statement, Mamata Banerjee did not give Narendra Modi a pass, but rather discussed the fact. As an administrator, she is aware that the administrative head is not responsible for every political decision. Additionally, everyone is aware that, despite JP Nadda being the BJP's president, Amit Shah, the home minister, is actually in charge."

How Mamata Banerjee wants to revive her anti-Hindu image

Mamata Banerjee's remarks about the RSS have also sparked a political controversy. There are still some good people in the RSS, according to Banerjee's recent statement. Many people think that the TMC supremo is speaking in a usual manner. She has previously used language along the lines of "good BJP, bad BJP, good CPM bad CPM," and similar phrases. It's crucial to realise that for a savvy politician like Banerjee, the time is not right to simply say such things without giving them deeper political connotations.

It is well known that the Bharatiya Janata party is engaged in a bitter internal conflict in Bengal. The main driver of this conflict is the acceptance of individuals like opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari, who switched from the TMC to the BJP prior to the elections. In the BJP, there are more individuals like Adhikari who have attained respectable positions. The Bengal unit of the RSS, according to saffron party sources, has always been critical of such individuals. Before the Bengal assembly elections in 2021, a number of significant TMC leaders defected and joined the BJP. But shortly after the BJP lost that election, the majority of these leaders rejoined Mamata Banerjee's party.

The Bengal BJP's decision to bring in such damaged leaders has drawn criticism from the RSS. Within a segment of the TMC, there is growing consensus that Mamata Banerjee attempted to address these Sangh sections with her remarks regarding the RSS. Banerjee is well aware that the RSS has established a strong presence in Bengal's rural areas over time. A portion of the TMC thinks the statements are an attempt to win over RSS-averse rural voters. Similarly, after the 2021 Bengali elections and to be precise during the campaigns also Banerjee is now trying to shift her image from being pro-Muslim. For example, the stand of the TMC on a statement made by party MP Mahua Mitra on goddess Kali. Mahua Moitra, the Krishnanagar MP of the Trinamool Congress, commented that to her, Kali is a "meat eating and alcohol accepting" goddess. This created a massive row. Mamata Banerjee and her political party were swift in distancing themselves from this comment. Mamata Banerjee, on July 21st, even warned the leaders not to take any line without following the command of the party.

Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress are well aware of the rituals of Kali Puja in Bengal, based on which Moitra made her comment. But the TMC believes that it is not the right way to take on the BJP. In the state of West Bengal, the BJP also received 38% of the votes in the last assembly elections. There is no doubt that the voters of the BJP are Hindus. The TMC is also scared because if the Hindu voters of the party come down more, then with the help of the minority votes, Mamata Banerjee will not be able to retain Bengal.

Why Mamata Banerjee can soften her stand against Congress

Recently, NCP leader and political veteran Sharad Pawar hinted that Mamata Banerjee might consider softening her stand on the Congress party too. Notably, the TMC did not dispute this assertion and even backed it. The TMC has been forced to halt its national expansion plan due to the rising corruption allegations against the organisation. Banerjee is being kept at arm's length by other opposition politicians like Nitish Kumar. Her stance against Congress is one of the primary motivators for this distance-building tactic. Banerjee will have some leeway to soften her stance given the chance that a non-Gandhi will become the president of the Congress.

A Senior TMC leader who did not want to be named said, "Our political stand is clear. We want to defeat the BJP and Congress is not our enemy. It is unfortunate that the Congress wants our support in the Center and then in Bengal, they go with the Left. Congress needs to clarify its stand. Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee are fighting a battle against the BJP. Didi has repeatedly said that she wants every opposition party to stand together. She even called Congress during the meeting of presidential candidate selection. But the Congress did not call her during the meeting over deciding the vice presidential candidate."

At the end of the day, what it comes to is that Banerjee understands the fragmented politics of India right now. She wants to be a kingmaker but at the same time, she does have a lot of political ambition. However, due to the recent crisis in Bengal, it should be seen how she manages both.

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