Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is extremely miffed about the CBI's summons to her party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay. Her angry reactions came after Bandopadhyay was asked by the CBI to appear before it (reportedly in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund "scam"). He was called thrice by the Central investigating agency.
Was Mamata's reaction too predictable? One must admit that political leaders have a sharp sense of the foreseeable future and tend to prepare well ahead their own arguments.
Look at it another way, and one can see how Banerjee has been, for the past few months, meticulously preparing the grounds for this argument – since she was well aware of the CBI's impending "action" on her party functionaries. Many of her party colleagues are alleged to be involved in the Saradha scam and other chit fund scams in which hundreds of common people were cheated and robbed of their savings.
Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have had angry war of words (with copious dose of sarcasm and witticisms) in the run-up to the Assembly elections of West Bengal earlier this year. It was an election where both BJP and the Trinamool Congress took rapid strides ahead, getting higher votes than they had in the Assembly elections of 2011.
And yet, Banerjee's tirade against Modi took an unprecedented harsh note over the demonetisation issue. Yes, it is an issue that Banerjee saw as something that could win her support from the poor that is her main votebank. And yet the attack seemed to be much more forceful than the immediate political situation in Bengal would perhaps demand. After all, there is no election in West Bengal till the panchayat polls of 2018, and it is too early to even build up a tempo for it.
Therefore, one of the most important reasons why Banerjee has been harping on her opposition of the demonetisation issue and the reason why she got into a direct attack on Modi, it seems, is because she was well aware of the CBI's ongoing investigations in which some of her party colleagues may soon be questioned and/or arrested.
"The CBI felt like calling me, so they called me. They think they can do anything they want, so they are doing it."
Two of her party colleagues, Madan Mitra and Kunal Ghosh, were earlier arrested by the CBI and are now out on bail. Two others, Mukul Roy and Subhendu Adhikary, have already been summoned and questioned. Roy and Adhikary were both rumoured to be joining the BJP, but the speculations were put to rest (albeit temporarily) more than a year ago. But the CBI investigations are far from over, and many of Banerjee's close aides are likely to be summoned. All this was not unknown to her.
Sudip Bandopadhyay told HuffPost India, with biting sarcasm: "The CBI felt like calling me, so they called me. They think they can do anything they want, so they are doing it."
Trinamool Congress' official reaction was far from subtle mockery. The party's senior leader, Partha Chatterjee said that the party in power at the Centre was using government agencies for their party work. "But no matter how much they threaten us, our protest against demonetisation will continue," Chatterjee said. "No matter how much you threaten to put us behind bars, we are with the people," he added.
Banerjee has herself tweeted that the BJP government was doing vendetta politics, and that nothing would deter her from her fight against demonetisation. The arguments, the bitter war of words between BJP and Trinamool Congress, between Didi and Modi are far from over. Nor should this be simplified. There is no clear winner either. Not yet.
The arguments, the bitter war of words between BJP and Trinamool Congress, between Didi and Modi are far from over. Nor should this be simplified. There is no clear winner either. Not yet.
In the political turf of Bengal, Banerjee's own image matters a lot. When she delivers speeches in her high-pitched, confident voice under the scorching blaze of the sun, her face dripping with sweat, and she takes a moment's pause and wipes it with the anchal of her saree, the poor villagers identify themselves with her – someone who works hard for their well-being, and yet who is constantly snubbed and threatened by the Centre.
It is in such epiphanic moments as these that the poor -- that are already so much in awe of her -- begin to sympathise with her, lump in their throats, as they think of all those moments when they too have been ostracised and their voices were scuttled by the powerful. And they do not want Didi's voice scuttled.
They want her to continue her fight. Do not think then that Banerjee's carefully worked out strategy – of projecting the BJP and Narendra Modi as those bent upon harming her party because she dared to speak out against him and had chosen to side with the poor – would have entirely gone waste.