Mamata should avoid pettiness in political rivalry

Published : May 12, 2019 02:55 pm | By: Anjali Chhabra

It is time the Mamata Banerjee learns to respect the constitutional rights and act accordingly. With BJP keen to make inroads in West Bengal, Didi is trying hard to make every move of both BJP and Prime Minister Modi as an act of vendetta.

A week ago Cyclone Fani battered Odisha with 175 kmph windstorm blowing away houses and swamping towns and villages and leaving thousands homeless. After the Cyclone Fani savaged Odisha, it threatened to create havoc across West Bengal including the capital Kolkatta.

But, fortunately the Cyclone Fani did not cause much havoc in West Bengal as the severe cyclonic storm weakened and headed towards neighbouring Bangladesh. But, it did indeed kindle a political storm, that too in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections.

Couple of days after the Cyclone Fani hit Odisha, in the midst of whirlwind election campaign schedule, the Prime Minister conducted an aerial survey of the severely impacted areas of Odisha along with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Just a week ago, the two leaders Modi and Patnaik  fought a bitter battle as Odisha voted for the Lok Sabha elections. The two leaders heading the rival parties of BJP and BJD, were engaged in accusations and throwing brick bats at each other during their election campaign.

But, when the state reeled under the nature’s fury, the centre extended all possible help and provided the relief and assistance to the people of Odisha and also  Patnaik showed that he is a true statesman by burying all political differences and joined hands with Modi in providing the much needed relief for the people of Odisha.  Modi lauded Naveen Patnaik for the latter’s efforts for the relief measures and said, “CM Naveen has done a good job. The Centre will work with the state government to take things forward”.

On the other hand the political blame game soared over as war of words broken out between the Centre and Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal over Cyclone Fani. Modi, who reviewed the situation in Odisha along with state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, expressed the desire to conduct a similar review with Mamata Banerjee. But it was turned down.

While addressing a rally in West Bengal's Tamluk district, Modi said, "After hearing about the impact of Cyclone Fani in West Bengal, I tried to get in touch with Mamata twice to seek an update on the situation. She did not speak to me."  Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that despite several attempts, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not respond to his requests for a meeting to assess the losses incurred by cyclone Fani.

Modi blamed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for refusing to participate in a review meeting with him on Cyclone Fani. PM Modi said that he tried to get in touch with Mamata Banerjee but her "arrogance" came in the way. "Speedbreaker Didi has tried to play politics even on Cyclone Fani. I tried to get in touch with Mamata didi but her arrogance is such that she refused to talk to me, I tried again but she did not get in touch," he said.

The Trinamool Congress had claimed that PM Modi only spoke to West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi about the post-Fani situation in the state, while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called up Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, but did not call West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to discuss rescue and rehabilitation operations.

The Trinamool Congress hit out at PM Modi and called it an attack on a federal structure and a deviation from the Constitution. By calling the Governor he has acted as leader of BJP and not as a Prime Minister. How can he deny the mandate of our people? Mamata Banerjee is the elected chief minister of Bengal, the party claimed.

However, the Centre rubbished the reports and maintained that since the calls by the Prime Minister were not returned by the West Bengal Chief Minister, the Prime Minister then spoke to state Governor. The party also alleged that and alleged Modi doesn't respect the federal structure of the country. But the fact remains that it was Mamata Bannerjee who disrespected the Office of the Prime Minister.

'Don't need you'

The relationship further worsened after Mamata Banerjee not only refused to conduct a joint review meeting with the Prime Minister in the backdrop of Cyclone Fani, but made derogatory remarks on Modi. Mamata Banerjee called Modi an "expiry PM" and declared that she has no intentions of meeting him and sharing the dais with him.  She also made it very clear to PM Modi that the TMC government in West Bengal is capable of handling the situations without any help from the centre and the state is capable of handling it. The CM told the PM:  “We don't need you".

Modi said, “The Centre is involved in relief work but the speed breaker in West Bengal tried to play politics over this situation. I tried to talk to her (Mamata) but her arrogance is so much that she refused to talk to me. I kept waiting with the hope that she will call back but she did not. I still called her again as I was worried for the people of Bengal. But she still did not respond to my call. You can make a guess how much she loves her politics. She is not bothered about the people of Bengal. It is because of the behaviour of this ‘speed breaker’ that brakes have been applied to development in Bengal,” he added.

PM Modi further accused Mamata of “arresting and jailing those chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram'”. “Didi is so frustrated these days that she doesn’t even want to talk or hear about God. The situation is such that Didi is arresting and jailing those who are chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’,” he said. Modi also criticised the Bengal chief minister for not hailing the designation of Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist” by the UN as she is “afraid that it might affect her vote-bank politics”.

Mamata Banerjee also claimed that she had gone to meet PM Modi twice when the state was ravaged by floods last time and demanded assistance and but the centre  offered no aide. "I want to ask him where was he when people in the backward areas like Lalgarh were in trouble? How many times have you come here? Now during polls you come, Mamata questioned.  

Should fulfil Constitutional Duties

Surely Didi has set a shocking precedent. Worst, when questioned Mamata retorted: ‘Modi is not my PM’. How can a sitting CM proclaim a sitting PM as is not her PM?  Is not West Bengal part of India and Modi still the PM of India? By blocking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  Mamata Banerjee has failed to fulfil her constitutional duties. Being the Chief Minister of a state, underlying the importance of federalism does not she has the responsibility to see the nation from the perspective of a Chief Minister? 

Surely such statements are not only uncalled for but also amount to sowing the seeds of ‘separatism’. How can we build a developed nation if there is no co-ordination between Centre and State? How can the leaders who have been given the mandate by the people act so irresponsibly ignoring the welfare of the people?

One can understand that in the election season tempers may fly high between the leaders as everyone tries their best to grab the attention of the people. But, is it ok to reduce the constitutional authority to a mere ego competition?  Independent India has witnessed several bipartisan relationships in the past that blossomed between some very prominent leaders beyond their political affinity.

Way back in 1977, when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister, he picked up Atal Bihari Vajpayee to counter Pakistan’s move of condemning India for violation of human rights in Kashmir with the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, who was then an opposition leader to represent India. Narasimha Rao’s gesture simply won hearts not only within India but also across the globe as act of  shrewd diplomacy by the then PM. When Modi was the Gujarat CM, he invited the then PM Manmohan Singh for laying the foundation stone of a gigantic Patel statue.

But Mamata fails to live up to such relationships and it certainly calls up for certain maturity. Recently, when Modi shared in an interview that Mamata used to send him Kurtas and Sweets,  she  retorted by saying she will send Rasagoolhas made of clay to Modi, so that  it will break his teeth. What a highly childish statement from a CM who also nourishes aspirations to become a PM. She is unbothered by constitutional niceties. 

Couple of months back Mamata Banerjee staged a dharna to protest the CBI’s bid to question Kolkata police commissioner in the Saradha chit fund scam in which lakhs of investors were swindled of their money with the promise of astronomical returns. The country has never seen a chief minister sitting on a dharna to save a corrupt official.   

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Didi is insulting the constitution of this country. She is not ready to accept the Prime Minister of the country but she feels proud to accept Pakistan PM as a Prime Minister”. The political rivalry between the two will adversely affect relief work in cyclone hit areas in West Bengal. Lack of co-ordination between the Centre and the state will paralyse the state. Doing politics over natural calamities will certainly hamper the development works.

A fighter at heart, Mamata is known for her aggression. With the excessive aggression, comes out the pettiness and her politics is camouflaged by vengeance. It has reached alarming level with her being projecting as a key player in the “Magagathbandhan” and also a potential “Prime Ministerial candidate.

In the recent times, the massive stress of the ongoing  Lok Sabha polls seem to be testing her patience and she often loses her sense of balance. Recently, she even stopped her cavalcade during the election campaign questioned people for chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram'. She was so furious, she shouted at the sloganeers: "Does Ramachandra become BJP’s election agent when the election comes? Why should I give your slogan? I will not chant the name of rotten Modi or rotten BJP. They are trying to erase the culture of Bengal”. As a consequence the police detained three villagers for chanting Jai Shri Ram. This incident prompted Modi to accuse Mamata Banerjee of "religious intolerance” and said people were being arrested for chanting 'Jai Shri Ram'.

How can one justify such despotic behaviour, that too from a sitting Chief Minister?  How one can detain the civilians for praising Lord Rama. What is she trying to prove? Is she greater than Lord Shri Ram? She has subverted India’s cultural diversity, paving the way for separatism.

The episode clearly demonstrates that Mamata has become increasingly jittery over BJP’s rising political graph in West Bengal. Further with reports of widespread violence across West Bengal in every phase of polling, it exposes Trinamool Congress’ politics of violence and intimidation.  With such petty tactics, it is clear that Mamata has become very insecure about her political future, which translates in to frustration and anger. She has no qualms about exhibiting the level of bitterness and stooping to disappointing standards of politics.

The irony is that Mamata lectures on  upholding the “federal structure”. With such acts of spiteful irresponsibility,  Mamata has redrawn Centre-state relationship and looking to dominate further. 

A fighter at heart, Mamata is known for her aggression. With the excessive aggression, comes out the pettiness and her politics is camouflaged by vengeance. It has reached alarming level with herself being projecting as a key player in the “Magagathbandhan” and also a potential  “Prime Ministerial candidate.

But, what she completely forgotten is that the she is not the only regional satrap looking forward to take on the BJP’s challenge.  Further, Naveen Patnaik is facing a far more challenge than Mamata Banerjee to quell the challenge of BJP as he is battling on two fronts — since Odisha is undergoing simultaneous elections for Assembly and Lok Sabha. However, that did not stop Patnaik from carrying on with his constitutional duties under the federal structure of government and to coordinate with the Centre for the welfare of the people.

Unlike Mamata, Patnaik deserves plaudits for upholding the federal structure. It is time; Mamata should take leaf out of Naveen Patnaik who brushed aside the political differences in the larger interest of the state and its people. Certainly, for someone who envisions herself a greater national role, it is time she should stop her antics and learn to respect the constitutional rights and act with more responsibility.

 

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