New Delhi, Sep 19, 2019-
Mamata Banerjee, a quintessential rebel, was here on Wednesday to meet her political bête noire Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On Thursday, the firebrand Bengal leader met her another political foe Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
But it was a much no more the spitfire Banerjee, but a much mellowed Chief Minister who raised the issues of changing her states name from West Bengal to Bangla and expressed her “concern” over NRC, which till last week was “inhuman and autocratic”.
So what’s behind the rebellious defiance softening into almost abject “submission”?
Many, including the opposition, blame it on the CBI’s hyper enthusiasm to track down Rajeev Kumar, former Kolkata Police Commissioner and a Mamata favourite, in the Saradha chit fund scam.
It’s believed, Kumar knows way too much, which made Mamata to sit on a dharna in Kolkata for Kumar this February when CBI sleuths went to question him. Bengal Congress President Somen Mitra said she was trying to find an “escape route” for her trusted cop.
While Banerjee rubbished speculations over her meeting, it’s a fact that she met the Prime Minister after a gap of 15 months. Also, between the meetings in May 2018 and September 2019, Banerjee has made a long political journey — from being the darling of the opposition for her outspoken and often vitriolic charge at Modi as Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo to a seasoned Chief Minister keen on a fair Centre-State relations.
Also, the rabble-rouser of Bengal politics, who uprooted an entrenched CPI(M) from the iconic Writers’ Building was a picture of all grace and courtesy.
On Wednesday, Banerjee might have brought several packets of sandesh, a Bengali sweets, from a well-known Kolkata confectionery for Modi, but just a few weeks back — in April — she wanted to shatter the Prime Minister’s denture by getting him offered rosogollas made of clay with fillings of gravel.
Hurling brick-bats (laddoo) at Modi and his BJP at a 2019 poll rally in Aasansol, BJP leader Babul Supriyo’s Lok Sabha constituency, Mamata said they lacked minimum courtesy. “In 2014, they got two seats (from Bengal) and this time they will get a big rosogolla. They will get a big zero,” she said.
She also got BJP supporters imprisoned for raising “Jai Shri Ram” slogan in Bengal. Her animated altercation with BJP workers for raising the slogan became a talk of the nation. She instructed the cops accompanying her to arrest them. She believed Ram was synonymous with the BJP.
In a jibe at Modi in May, she said, “Look at Modi Babu. Whenever there is an election they make Lord Ram an agent and seek votes. The mahant (religious in-charge) of the Kapil Muni Ashram at Gangasagar first told me this.”
The animosity heightened to the proportion that Banerjee took to Twitter to announce that she would skip the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Modi.
It’s a litany of political posturing by Bengal Chief Minister, of course, to protect her turf as well as the image, that she refused to allow Amit Shah’s chopper to land at pre-designated helipad, she didn’t let Yogi Adityanath’s helicopter even land in Purulia, forcing the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister to touch ground in Jharkhand and travel to the rally ground by car.
Tripura Chief Minister’s office had officially raised objections with the Banerjee administration for not enabling security of Biplab Deb during poll campaign. She scuttled BJP’s rath yatra and fought a long legal battle up to the Supreme Court.
Last time Modi and Mamata had met in May 2018 at the Visva-Bharati University convocation in Shantiniketan. In between Didi and Modi exchanged barbs, with Banerjee even calling him “master of corruption”.
Banerjee not only skipped all meetings chaired by the Prime Minister, she even refused to talk to the Prime Minister over the phone. It went to the extent that she even hung up on the call by the PMO in the wake of Cyclone Fani, earlier this year.
But on Wednesday as a smiling Mamata entered 7, Lok Kalyan Marg with a bouquet of yellow flowers signifying renewal of friendship. Her body language was easy, at least going by the optics.
Did Rajeev Kumar, her trusted cop, now untraceable with 14-member CBI crack team on his hot pursuit, get a escape route, courtesy the “Danga Babu” (riot man), as Mamata often refers Modi, who happens to be the “Prime Minister”?. (Agency)