By Ashis Biswas
It is not just a question of boycotting a proposed Joint Parliamentary Committee probe against Nirav Modi looting a PSU bank of Rs 11,000 crore: in Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has also blocked a State Assembly discussion on a controversial public religious conversion by militant Hindus. On both issues, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), palpably on the ropes, has won much-needed relief.
Are the TMC and the BJP in a clandestine tie-up of sorts?
Opposition parties in Bengal are convinced that they are. Both the Congress and the CPI(M)-led Left Front have once again accused the TMC of helping out the ruling BJP and vice versa. This is a most a surprising allegation in view of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s apparently endless tirades against the saffron party! CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakravarty and senior Congressmen Abdul Mannan are convinced that both parties are in a tacit alliance.
Both men are on solid ground as to facts. In public rallies, most TMC leaders resort to abusive rhetoric against the BJP, taking a cue from their supreme leader. Interestingly, the BJP hardly ever reacts. The reaction from State party president Dilip Ghosh or Mukul Roy to the screaming rants of the TMC seems soporifically low-key. The BJP, except for ill-planned sporadic efforts, has not launched any major mass movement against the TMC since 2014,
BJP”s central leaders like Kailash Vijaybargia or Sidharthnath Singh before him, hardly attack the TMC these days. President Amit Shah publicly speaks of strengthening the state party organisation only. No more any talk of ‘forcing the TMC ministers to hold their meetings in jails soon, in view of their neck-deep involvement in multi-crore Sarada chit fund scam and the Narada sting operation’. Slogans like ‘Bhag Mamata Bhag,’ heard in the immediate aftermath of the BJP”s sweeping win in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, have been forgotten long ago.
Apart from the arrest of one senior leader (Sudip Bandopadhyay) and a state Minister (Madan Mitra), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the Sarada scam, arrested only TMC lightweights, including some first time MPs. All are out on bail currently, no charge sheet having been drawn up yet. Recently, a CBI move to re-arrest TMC MP Kunal Ghosh was rejected by the Supreme Court, which expressed annoyance over the lack of progress in the agency’s probe and an apparent lack of forward movement.
As leaders of the Left Front and the Congress have said repeatedly, there does not seem to be any interest on part of the CBI or other agencies to proceed with any investigation into the scams and corruption of the TMC. This would never have happened unless the TMC was returning the favour to the BJP in some way or other.
‘ For all their mutually inimical rhetoric, the words of leaders of both parties contradict their own decisions,’ says a Congress leader. As example, he cites the TMC’s decision not to join any joint opposition programmes even at the floor level during the last Parliament session. The TMC instead of joining the walk-outs or slogan shouting by Opposition leaders on various issues, mostly stayed quiet or staged its own walk-outs. “This was clearly a victory for the hard-pressed BJP enabling it to claim that the opposition could not even present a unified front against it”, says an observer.
Others point out that even the probe into the Sarada and other scams was not initiated by the BJP. The SC ordered the CBI to take over investigations into allegations of corruption against top TMC leaders after Congress leader Mannan and a few public spirited citizens exposed how the Bengal government was trying to suppress material evidence.
But such was the ineptitude of the state and central BJP leadership that even such open-and-shut cases of corruption — the Narada sting operation showed nearly a score of senior TMC leaders including MPs, MLAs, state ministers and former central ministers coolly pocketing wads of cash! — did not remarkably improve their position in Bengal significantly. ‘Why did the Bengal BJP remain idle even after this sort of a humiliating exposure for the TMC?’ is a common question among the people.
In part, Mamata’s ambition to head an all India anti–BJP combination also splits the Opposition nationally. Relations between Rahul Gandhi, the new Congress president and Mamata Banerjee are known to be cool. Sonia Gandhi may have explained the new ground rules within the Congress by referring to her son as her “boss”, but it is a message that does not go down well with Mamata. She sees herself, according to Mukul Roy, as the future prime minister of India!
She sees her TMC with only a few seats fewer than the Congress in the Lok Sabha, as a party carrying almost equal weight. “She has always been a leader in a hurry with little patience for history, even recent history. This is reflected in her summary treatment of even former veteran Congress leaders who joined the TMC later. Old tales of the century-old Congress party and its ruling dynasty will not impress her much,” says Shounak Mukherjee, teacher of political science in a Kolkata college.
On its part, the Congress is not yielding either. The most recent example: it turned down a TMC proposal to fight the Tripura Assembly polls in an alliance. Congress insiders say that it is Rahul Gandhi who put his foot down, insisting that the party will never allow the TMC to become the senior partner in any understanding.
As for the Bengal Assembly deciding not to discuss either the Hindu right-wing sponsored religious conversion issue, or the Nirav Modi scam, there is an interesting explanation. In the second instance the BJP might have been spared its blushes over the obvious failure of the Punjab National Bank, official auditors, the Reserve Bank and other central institutions to prevent the loot of public money. But the Hindu Sanhati, the organization that carried out the conversion ceremony in public after getting police permission right at the centre of Kolkata city, is known to maintain close links with the TMC, of all parties!
As BJP leader Ghosh explained, “Organisations known to be close to us like the RSS and others, are never permitted to hold even closed door meetings, let alone rallies, It is no different with our BJP, which has had to secure court permission to hold meetings and rallies. But these people (Hindu Sanhti) got police permission almost instantly, even for holding a conversion ceremony! What does it tell us?” he asked.
It could only mean that the TMC, never reputed for its adherence to any well defined principle, had secretly started wooing the ultra Hindu vote bank upstaging the BJP, according to one observer. (IPA Service)