Mamata's Capital gain: Getting new friends, scoring over old foes

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 16:03 IST
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee presents a bouquet to her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal during a dinner in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee often has some tricks up her sleeves. While critics pan some of her political moves as self-defeating, many of them have reaped rich dividends for her.

In her current short trip to Delhi, Banerjee has once again hogged the limelight with a sudden tea party of regional parties being planned at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence, where she will be a key guest.

The tea party will also see Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, perhaps for the first time, attending a political strategy meeting with other regional political satraps.

Kejriwal met Banerjee over dinner on Tuesday night and has reportedly informed her that he will first come to her residence on Wednesday —- to go to the party along with her.

Read: In Delhi, Mamata, Pawar and Kejriwal to meet today

Banerjee’s equation with Kejriwal is something to watch out for. Earlier, when a Kejriwal storm hit Delhi first in December 2013, Banerjee had maintained that she “knows very little about him” and refrained from any comments.

But in August 2015, it’s a different chemistry. Tuesday night, Banerjee told mediapersons that she and Kejriwal have a lot in common as they both “fight” for the aam aadmi. Her growing rapport with Kejriwal also comes in the backdrop of her disillusionment with anti-graft campaigner Anna Hazare, who ditched her famously in an election rally in 2014 at the capital’s Ramlila Maidan.

Clearly, Banerjee doesn’t need any outside support to fight the next Bengal assembly elections in 2016. The recent electoral track records indicate that she is in a very comfortable position vis-à-vis the Left and the BJP in her fiefdom.

The evening 'chai pe charcha' is thus an attempt of Banerjee to consolidate her position in the non-Congress, non-BJP quarters and eqully importantly shunt the Sitaram Yechury-led Left in that space. Yechury, the most popular Left leader has been a pivotal force in the Opposition camp (many jokingly tell him as the real “Leader of Opposition” in Rajya Sabha) and maintain excellent equation across party lines among the non-BJP forces.

But Banerjee now plans to grab this space once again to replace Left as an integral part of any future non-Congress, non-BJP government.

The West Bengal CM will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But there is little chance of forging any political understanding as she can’t afford to antagonise the vast minority vote bank that is now solidly backing the party with grass and flower symbol.

This time, Banerjee’s entry in this regional bandwagon is facilitated by Sharad Pawar, an astute politican mind, who sees this opportunity to send a message to the BJP. Any effective grouping of regional satraps can prove to be a good power bloc to negotiate harder with the ruling side that desperately needs support of these parties in Rajya Sabha to pass key bill for the next four years.

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