POLITICS

How Mamata’s Recent Proximity With Sonia-Rahul Will Influence The Upcoming Presidential Election

It might also affect the Rajya Sabha MP election and the Left-Congress alliance in Bengal.

19/05/2017 11:06 AM IST | Updated 19/05/2017 11:09 AM IST
Reuters Photographer / Reuters
An Indian boy gives the finishing touches to the symbol of the regional Trinamool Congress party in front of a painting of party leader Mamata Banerjee (L), and leader of India's main oppostion Congress Party Sonia Gandhi ahead of an election rally in Calcutta May 2, 2001.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence on 16 May, in presence of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. She will meet them again in the national capital on 24 May.

Banerjee's recent proximity with Sonia-Rahul will have far-reaching impact in both national and Bengal politics in the coming days. To begin with, the meeting was primarily, officially, held to discuss the upcoming presidential election. But the meeting also has a bearing on the election of Rajya Sabha MPs prior to that.

There are 16 Rajya Sabha seats from West Bengal, out of which election for six will be held on 8 June. Of these six, TMC has four MPs – Derek O'Brien, Debabrata Bandopadhyay, Dola Sen and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy. Congress has Pradip Bhattacharya and CPM has Sitaram Yechury.

Mamata Banerjee was a part of the Congress till she formed her own party, the Trinamool Congress in 1997.

Election for ten Rajya Sabha seats will be held in June. Out of this, six seats are from West Bengal (those mentioned above), three from Gujarat and one from Goa.

In the last Assembly election of 2016 in West Bengal, TMC had won 211 seats, the Congress had won 44 and the Left parties had 32 seats. Since then, five Congress MLAs and one Left MLA has joined the TMC, making the latter's tally 217 Assembly seats. Therefore, TMC already has the adequate number of seats to send five Rajya Sabha MPs out of the six vacant seats from Bengal.

However, neither Congress – with 39 MLAs – nor the Left parties – with 31 MLAs – have the adequate number of Assembly seats to elect an MP for the Rajya Sabha (the minimum number of MLAs required for electing an MP will be 42) on their individual strength.

However, considering the Left and the Congress had formed an alliance before the 2016 Assembly election and their ties are still warm, there is a possibility that either a Congress or a Left candidate may be chosen through mutual agreement.

B Mathur / Reuters
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee (L) presents a flower bouquet to chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi before their meeting in New Delhi May 16, 2011. The beleaguered Congress-led coalition has managed to avoid a major voter backlash over a series of embarrassing corruption scandals, winning three of five regional polls and overturning two communist state governments, results showed on Friday. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)

It is this alliance that Mamata Banerjee wants to break.

Banerjee is said to be discussing with Sonia and Rahul the larger picture of an alliance both in terms of the Rajya Sabha MP seat and in terms of the Congress' role in West Bengal in future. All this, under the backdrop of the President election.

Sonia wants Mamata's nod for the support of a common Opposition candidate for the coming presidential candidate. They are also keen that the camaraderie will remain beyond the presidential election.

Banerjee on her part wants to ensure three things at this point.

One, she is keen on sending all six Rajya Sabha MPs from her party and is thereby seeking Sonia Gandhi's support for the sixth candidate.

Banerjee is said to be discussing with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi the larger picture of an alliance.

Or, she might agree to support Congress in the election of the sixth Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal (instead of all six of her MPs). This, Banerjee wants, should be someone from the Congress who is not publicly opposed to her, like Adhir Chowdhury and Abdul Mannan, who are the main leaders of the Congress in Bengal and who are very vociferous in their opposition of Mamata.

For either of these two options, Banerjee would want the Congress in Bengal to not oppose her, the way the party is doing at the moment along with the Left Front. She might also look for the Delhi leadership to replace the Congress leaders in Bengal who are at the helm now.

Three, Banerjee might want a "non-political" person to be nominated from the sixth seat whom the Congress and TMC will both support.

In the long run, the camaraderie between Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi would inevitably lead to an alliance between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

In the long run, the camaraderie between Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi would inevitably lead to an alliance between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

And it is not so difficult. After all, Mamata Banerjee was a part of the Congress till she formed her own party, the Trinamool Congress in 1997. Moreover, the two parties had had an alliance prior to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and there were Congress ministers in the 2011 cabinet formed by Banerjee in Bengal (though this did not last, and the alliance was broken in 2012). In the last Assembly election of 2016, Congress and Left Front had joined hands to fight the TMC.

If the Congress and the TMC eventually come together, then it would fulfil one of Mamata Banerjee's most important political agenda – to weaken the Left parties, chiefly the CPI(M) completely in Bengal. The other objective has come to mean a necessity for her – to stop the BJP's rise in Bengal.

It is evident now that the warm camaraderie between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee is here to stay – because of indications that both are very keen to be part of the same platform to fight the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

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