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What's cooking with Mamata for Modi's Bengal visit

By Indrani Roy
May 08, 2015 12:29 IST
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Mamata Banerjee with Narendra Modi

 

 The Trinamool Congress's support in Parliament to the Centre over the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh and also the Goods and Service Tax Bill has triggered speculation that the TMC is warming up to the BJP, reports Indrani Roy/Rediff.com.

May 9, Saturday, is going to be an overly busy day for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Apart from paying tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on the Nobel Laureate’s 154th birth anniversary, Banerjee would also have to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the latter’s two-day trip to West Bengal.

Modi is scheduled to arrive in Kolkata in the afternoon of May 9.

For the whole of last week, the Bengal chief minister repeatedly expressed her intent to meet Modi for a ‘discussion’ on the economy of the state, which is reeling under a huge debt burden.

Going by Banerjee’s style of wearing her heart on her sleeve, political analysts are of the opinion that the meeting, if it happens, will have significant political implications.

The entire state is agog with speculation over the much-hyped Modi-Mamata ‘talks’.

The Trinamool Congress's support in Parliament to the Centre over the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh and also the Goods and Service Tax Bill has triggered conjecture that the ruling party of Bengal is warming up to the saffron party after relentlessly opposing its government in Parliament.

Political pundits think that for both Modi and Mamata, this somewhat ‘softening of stand’ is a necessity that has evolved out of the prevailing complicated socio-economic situation.

The Modi government, being a minority in the Rajya Sabha, is finding it difficult to get a few ‘important’ Bills passed.

Though the Lok Sabha passed the much awaited GST Bill on Wednesday, it’s yet to get a green signal from the Rajya Sabha.

The proposed Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, too has run into rough weather as Opposition parties have sent notices to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari early this week demanding that the bill be referred to a select committee of the House for scrutinising its rather 'contentious amendments'.

In these circumstances, the central government is keen on keeping Didi’s brigade in good humour.

Moreover, as the Biju Janata Dal, which had been opposing the GST Bill, followed TMC in dropping its demand that the constitutional amendment bill be referred to a parliamentary standing committee, it could have sent out a signal to Modi’s team that it would be wise to befriend these regional forces.

As a prelude to his Bengal trip, the prime minister has sought detailed ‘progress reports’ on the Bengal government’s activities in Bardhaman district.

Modi will inaugurate the refurbished IISCO plant at Burnpur in Bardhaman on May 10. According to sources in Nabanna, the new state secretariat, "files on Bardhaman were despatched to New Delhi on May 5".

Burnpur is part of the constituency of BJP Member of Parliament Babul Supriyo (known to be a Modi favourite).

In the past, Supriyo had faced stiff opposition from local TMC leaders in carrying out routine developmental work for the area.

According to analysts, the prime minister is probably taking stock of the situation at Burnpur to smoothen the road ahead for his party MP.

Analysts feel that the task will be rather easy for the prime minister this time as amid the ‘fast changing’ political equations between the saffron party and Didi’s followers, the latter will be all too happy now to bury the hatchet.

Speculation is also rife that Modi’s Bengal trip might be followed by a change of guard in the Bengal BJP.

A dismal performance in the recently concluded civic polls in the state has shaken the party's confidence to a large extent.

Bengal Kisan Morcha's vice-president Subhash Sarkar is known to have written to party chief Amit Shah about the state leadership's failure in taking advantage of the Modi wave.

There is talk that state BJP chief Rahul Sinha might be asked to step down making room for his colleague Chandan Mitra (member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh).

The party, which had made its presence felt quite convincingly during the last Lok Sabha elections, is at present suffering from infighting, dissidence and a lack of faith in the state leadership.

While Modi’s trip is sure to boost the state BJP leaders’ morale, it will also give them an opportunity to speak their minds and sort out the differences.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal chief minister has chalked out a list of demands that she plans to place before the prime minister.

During an interaction with the media in North Bengal couple of days back, Banerjee voiced her discontent over the Centre’s ‘step-fatherly’ attitude towards Bengal.

She said if the prime minister agrees, she would meet him with her charter of demands which include: renewal of funds for Darjeeling and Jangalmahal; reallocation of funds for 11 underdeveloped districts; raising the allowance for 100-day jobs, mid-day meals, modernisation of police force, Anganwadi, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan et al.

“If the chief minister can raise these issues with the prime minister, it will do a world of good to the state economy, which is in a moribund state at the moment,” said economist and financial expert Nimaichandra Ghosh.

Banerjee’s detractors, however, feel that the agenda she conveyed to the media is nothing but an eyewash.

“The chief minister is interested in seeking political immunity against the multi-crore Saradha scam,” veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan alleged to rediff.com over the telephone. “Didi’s followers are up to their neck in corruption and now the investigation has almost reached her doorstep.” 

“In such a situation, only the prime minister can rescue her. Naturally, therefore, Didi will go out of her way to please him.”

The Left parties, too, endorse Mannan’s views.

According to them, ‘Mamata and Modi are heading towards an alliance of convenience’.

Modi’s Bengal itinerary

  •  The prime minister will arrive at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport by a special Air Force aircraft on May 9 (afternoon) from Chhattisgarh.
  •  He will then reach Royal Calcutta Turf Club in central Kolkata by a helicopter. From there, he will leave by car for south Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha for an event.
  •  In the evening, Modi is scheduled to pay a visit to Swami Atmasthananda, ailing president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, who is undergoing treatment at a city hospital.
  •  The prime minister will spend the night at Raj Bhavan.
  •  According to sources, Modi may visit Belur Math on Sunday morning (May 10) and will leave for Burnpur in Bardhaman by helicopter to inaugurate the refurbished IISCO plant there.
  •  From Burnpur, the prime minister will leave for Andal by helicopter the same day.
  •  From Andal, Modi is scheduled to leave for New Delhi by the same air force aircraft that had brought him to Kolkata from Chhattisgarh.
  •  If the prime minister’s schedule remains unchanged, he would be the first to use Bengal’s recently inaugurated sole private airport of Andal.

 

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Indrani Roy / Rediff.com in Kolkata
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