In May last year, during the heat and dust of the Lok Sabha polls, chief minister Mamata Banerjee threatened to put Narendra Modi - whom she called ‘Haridas Pal’, meaning any Tom, Dick or Harry - in jail if he stepped on the soil of West Bengal. A year later, as Prime Minister Modi prepares to tour the state from Saturday, all the rancour seems to have been forgotten with Mamata keen to repair the state’s relationship with the new regime at the Centre.
From a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with Modi to sharing company on board the PM’s chopper, it is evident that both leaders are getting closer like never before.
In public though, the chief minister has kept up her feisty image. “I am neither going close to Modi nor am I far from him,” Mamata said on Thursday, defending her decision to meet the PM citing constitutional obligations and benefits for West Bengal.
However, opposition leaders say it is evident that the understanding which both are trying to achieve is way beyond just stateCentre relationship. “I would say a latent political bargaining is going on. The closeness between Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi we see now is a means to an end,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College and a political scientist. “Trinamool Congress has toned down its anti-government stance in Parliament. Mamata Banerjeeis eyeing a special financial package for West Bengal, not just development funds. added Mukhopadhyay.
According to political experts, Mamata Banerjee has strengthened her position after the recent civic polls. She has been able to stop the BJP juggernaut, at least for the time being. “What Modiji says and does is very important. On the one hand, the central government has always lent a helping hand to Bengal among other states. But it is also a fact that Assembly polls are drawing close and the BJP cannot be seen to be partying with the Trinamool,” said a BJP leader who did not wish to be named.