While all analysts say Jaya should be a clearly counted as a possible post-poll Modi ally, there are now clear doubts about the other two – Maya and Mamata, especially the latter… even assuming she does not want to be left out of the next Government, Modi’s inroads in Bengal and her own support base make for a volatile situation post-elections. It will not be easy for her to abandon her antagonism to Modi after the elections nor will it be possible for Modi to sacrifice his gains in Bengalso easily…
If we accept the reality that the BJP-led NDA will fall short of a majority and hence needs chunky support from regional parties, the key suspects for alliance are said to be J Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati. Each one of them could be commanding an allegiance of 20 MPs or more. Without at least two of them,Narendra Modi’s 272-mark will be tougher to reach. He will then have to rely on many more smaller parties. While all analysts say Jaya should be a clearly counted as a possible post-poll Modi ally, there are now clear doubts about the other two – Maya and Mamata, especially the latter.
While Mayawati is actively wooing Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Mamata is becoming increasingly dependent on the Muslim vote, and this constituency is expecting her to up the aggression against Modi. Between the two, Maya and Mamata, the latter will have less space in which to manoeuvre. On the other hand, Modi has become the X factor in West Bengal politics, according to a ‘Hindustan Times’ report. Mamata Banerjee’s overt tilt towards minority politics is pushing some non-Left voters in Bengal to look for a third alternative, and this alternative could be Modi’s BJP.
Says the HT report: “In north Bengal highway bazaars, in Malda town, and in Kolkata, an increase in support for the BJP is palpable, driven partially by a narrative that the BJP perfected in north India, of accusing the Government of the day of ‘appeasement politics’.” The evidence of Mamata-di’s appeasement comes from several things she did, including offering salaries to imams (later struck down by the courts) and posing like a Muslim woman offering namaz in one hoarding. To make things worse, Mamata’s political support is increasingly coming from high-profile clerics who don’t speak the voice of neutral secularism. One such backer is the voluble Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata, NR Barkati. Barkati was the one who asked Mamata to up her criticism against Modi, and he was also vociferously demanding that she distance herself from Anna Hazare because of his alleged RSS links.
In another ‘Hindustan Times’ report (31 March) Barkati is quoted as claiming he made Mamata win in 2011. He believes he can sway opinion through West Bengal’s 70,000 mosques. It is unlikely that his statements on behalf of Mamata will endear her to people outside the minority community, as this statement in the newspaper shows. Barkati said: “I believe in the Congress party but they are too weak here. Mamata is born from the womb of secularism and so I support her. I have told her to speak against fascist forces, and she is doing it.” If Mamata is shown to be dancing to Barkati’s tune, one can expect the beginnings of a reverse consolidation of the non-minority vote. It may be too weak to register as seats, but one cannot rule out a sharp spike in the BJP vote this time.
However, even assuming she does not want to be left out of the next Government, Modi’s inroads in Bengal and her own support base make for a volatile situation post-elections. It will not be easy for her to abandon her antagonism to Modi after the elections nor will it be possible for Modi to sacrifice his gains in Bengal so easily. Maybe, one should rule out Mamata as a factor in the next Government, assuming it is one led by Modi.