Would desperate Mamata be able to save face in another battle? (West Bengal newsletter)

July 14th, 2012 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, July 14 (IANS) After Dada episode, Didi is heading into yet another tussle between the Trinamool Congress and its estranged ally the Congress.

Confrontation over the presidential election is not yet over, and Mamata Banerjee is apparently venturing into another battle as she is reluctant to support the Congress’s proposal for a second term for Hamid Ansari as the vice president.

Political analysts say Didi, as Banerjee is popularly known, is desperate to save her face after she lost ground in the presidential election, due July 19.

Taking her war to 10 Janpath, Banerjee, chief of the Trinamool, the second largest constituent of the UPA, has even refused an invitation of alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi for a dinner July 18.

Well ahead of the Congress officially naming Ansari as its candidate for the August 7 vice presidential poll and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling up Banerjee to support for the incumbent, the Trinamool supremo, in a bid to take on her UPA partner, was keen on the nomination of former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, had earlier refused to back UPA presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee, a fellow Bengali, and propped up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the highest post.

Kalam, however, declined to contest the presidential election after Mukherjee gained sufficient political backing - from the Communsit Party of India-Marxist, the Samajwadi Party to the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Following this, Banerjee told her party’s parliament and assembly members that she would announce her choice for the presidential post three days before the poll July 19.

While Banerjee did not say that she will vote against Mukherjee, she dropped enough hints about her dislike for the former union finance minister for the highest constitutional post of the country.

Mukherjee said he was hopeful of securing Banerjee’s support, but the chief minister is clearly miffed with him as he did not call on her in his two-day visit to Kolkata but met MPs and MLAs of the CPI-M and Forward Bloc.

Mukherjee’s reluctance to cosset the Trinamool supremo, responsible for stalling a string of reforms from foreign dierct investment (FDI) in retail to pension bill, became prominent when the former finance minister commented that he would talk to Banerjee on the presidential poll “when she is ready”.

Mukherjee earlier had telephoned former West Bengal chief minister and CPI-M politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee apparently to seek the Left parties’ support for his candidature. That left a lot Trinamool Congress leaders red faced. They said Mukherjee should have telephoned their supremo.

The Congress too is trying to take on the ‘irritant’ Banerjee.

While Congress MP Adhir Choudhury took a dig at Banerjee for indirectly rejecting the name of Mukherjee and accused her of pursuing a “politics of vendetta” over not getting a financial package for Bengal, in a virtual snub to the state government union Home Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram alleged inter-party clashes were continuing in Bengal.

An infuriated Banerjee challenged Chidambaram by shooting off an angry letter the next day that described as “incorrect” the figures provided by the home minister of deaths in inter-party clashes in the state, leading to the growing differences between the Congress and the Trinamool.

On the economic front, the Congress, backed by the outside support of the Samajwadi Party, has decided to overlook Didi’s opposition and go ahead with the much-needed reform agenda to provide a new push to the slowing economy.

As a result, when the prime minister, in order to garner support for Ansari, contacted top leaders of various political parties, Banerjee has asked Railway Minister Mukul Roy to attend the July 14 UPA meeting in Delhi. He was expected to strongly propose Gandhi’s name for the vice presidential election.

“Mamata Banerjee pursued politics of brinkmanship. She took a wrong step in presidential election. So, she will be desperate to save her face. She can manage to do this if the Congress pampers her by accepting Gandhi. But, it is unlikely,” Amartya Mukhopadhyay, professor of political science at the Calcutta University, told IANS.

The Congress was likely to stick to its decision to re-nominate Ansari as he was almost a “consented candidate” and any deviation from its stance would present a “very bad precedence”, Mukhopadhyay added.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at mithun.d@ians.in)

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