Mamata’s push for power
The winner is one who makes a try. With the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi suffering a dent in recent months, those aiming for the PM’s chair in Delhi are getting restive. Maratha warhorse Sharad Pawar tested the waters and receded to the background, while West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in the national capital this past week, pushing her favourite cause of uniting the non-BJP Opposition in order to grab power in Delhi in 2024. It involves a lot of ground work and efforts must start in right earnest. The massive victory that Banerjee has accomplished in the West Bengal assembly polls this year has obviously added to the confidence of the diminutive chief minister to revive her Delhi agenda. However, on the flip side, the ground situations have changed. Her previous clout in Delhi was the strength of the Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha, it having won 34 out of the 42 LS seats in the state in 2014. Prima facie, it is unlikely she can win more than half the LS seats from Bengal in a future election. For, there is a strong polarization in the state between her party and the BJP.
At the same time, if the TMC ties up with the Congress and the Left, the party can win at least 30 seats. This is seen as a reason why Banerjee had, in her Delhi visit, chosen to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi after a stand-off lasting many years. Else, she was keen on keeping the Congress away from an anti-BJP alliance out of a possible fear that the PM post will be appropriated by Rahul Gandhi. Known for her fighting spirit, she is capable of hard bargaining. The other Opposition leaders are mindful of this. What could also play spoilsport for Banerjee is the rise of MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu. While he is not interested in the PM’s post in near future, he has made it repeatedly clear the DMK would like Rahul Gandhi to be the PM choice. He carries with him 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha MPs from the state in a virtual sweep in 2019. The rival AIADMK is perishing, as is seen from the assembly poll results this year too. Also, regional satraps like Naveen Patnaik and Chandrashekar Rao are unlikely to support Banerjee. So would the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra that has an alliance with the Congress to run the government. For a viable anti-BJP opposition, the Congress must lead from the front.