As punches started landing slowly but steadily on the government at the Centre for having spectacularly botched up the Pathankot operations, a Trinamool Congress MP decided to up the ante by lobbing a distasteful allegation at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Idris Ali said the prime minister had links with the terrorists and he was involved in the Pathankot attacks that took the lives of seven Indian security personnel.
"I feel PM Modi has links with terrorists which is why Pathankot attack took place. Why did the attack happen right after his visit to Pakistan? This is my personal opinion," he said.
He didn't just stop there. Speaking to the media, he even threatened to cut the limbs off CPI(M) leader Gautam Deb if he threatened Mamata Banerjee. He also dared the CBI to arrest Banerjee, following which he promised, Bengal will be on fire.
TMC spokesperson Derek O' Brien immediately distanced the party from the comments and said that they have written to him, asking for an explanation. He also added that people can 'expect action' against Ali.
However, it remains to be seen what kind of action the party really ends up taking against Ali. Anyone familiar with the political trajectory of TMC in West Bengal is aware of the role Idris Ali played in winning minority votes for Banerjee. Like all other national and regional parties who have a minorities affairs leader - mostly considered a link to the Muslims, Ali, had been the key to Banerjee's Muslim votes.
In fact, in 2012, Ali was a part of the group of Islamists who protested against the launch of writer Taslima Nasrin's book in the state-sponsored Kolkata Book Fair. In fact, they threatened the organisers to the extent they cancelled the book launch due to fear of violence. Though the official reason given by the organisers was the unavailability of a hall inside the fair grounds, the reason was fairly obvious.
The Times of India had reported, "Immediately after the release, a group of activists belonging to the All India Minority Forum, marched to the spot and started protesting against the release. A heated altercation happened between the publishers of the book and the demonstrators."
"Nasrin has written against Islam repeatedly. She is doing this at the insistence of the US. She will not be allowed here. We are upset that her publisher has ceremoniously organised release of her book. Such ceremony has been deliberately organised to insult our community," Abdul Aziz, member of the forum was quoted as saying. Among the leaders who blocked the release of a book in a book fair was Ali. Banerjee, who had come to power a year before, wasn't heard saying a word in protest against Ali's rowdy behaviour.
Curiously enough, when Nasrin was deported from Kolkata under the CPM government, following violence over her book 'Dwikhandito', Banerjee was one of the loudest voices of criticism against the former government. Later, when she came to power, she showed no signs of getting Nasrin back in Kolkata or taking on the likes of Ali.
Chances are Banerjee will not risk irking Ali directly, especially since the Assembly polls are due in April this year in West Bengal. Ali has had considerable sway on Muslim votes in the past, and the incident could be buried with the token chiding in the form of a letter.
In the past too, as long as Banerjee's own party leaders were rallying against the Opposition, the state's chief minister had not paid much attention to issues of linguistic propriety. In 2014, when Trinamool MP Tapas Pal threatened the opposition with rape, Banerjee irritatedly asked if people wanted her to kill him for the remarks. Clearly, a threat of sexual violence was not worth expelling one of her party leaders. There's little chance that she will be greatly inconvenienced by Ali launching vacuous allegations against her sworn political rival Modi.
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