The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now has to decide who will be the leader of the opposition in the West Bengal Assembly. The choice is between Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy and it is not an easy decision. Kailash Vijayvargiya, the party’s in-charge of the state, is keen to give the post to Roy. But some Delhi senior leaders think it is better to make Adhikari leader of the opposition since he defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram. It will be a point of irritation for Trinamool Congress (TMC). The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is said to want someone with a Sangh background, and is veering towards Dilip Ghosh.
After the West Bengal election, Prashant Kishor, who had overseen TMC’s winning campaign, announced that he was leaving the field of political strategy. The organisation, I-PAC, that he founded would be run by others but he didn’t say what he was planning to do. Mamata Banerjee met Kishor and his young team at her residence and they spent an hour together. She wants them to continue working with her party for the Kolkata corporation elections which are overdue, and could now take place in July. TMC has two vacancies in Rajya Sabha to fill. There is speculation that Kishor could be one nominee. But then it is also said that he does not want to be in Rajya Sabha and his ambition is to be chief minister of Bihar. That seems unlikely given his rift with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. In any case, Kishor is the talk of the town in political circles all over the country.
Now that the Congress has been decimated in West Bengal, people are wondering what is going to be Rahul Gandhi’s next move. Loyalists want him to officially take charge of the party as early as possible. Otherwise, dissidents are going to keep increasing in number. After the latest defeat, questions are being asked about his planning too. In the middle of the election, the high command told its Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to leave the post for the campaign. It is to be seen now whether he will get his post back or if he has lost it for good.
In 2014, as chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee had boy•cotted meeting Prime Minister Naren•dra Modi for some time. Earlier, Jyoti Basu, when he was chief minister, had steered clear of Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the latter became prime minister saying that it was an uncivilised and barbaric government. After winning a third time, Banerjee is now however keen on meeting Modi on a courtesy call. She wants a good Centre-state relationship to combat Covid.
It is being said that Mamata Banerjee could now lead a front of the opposition to stop the BJP juggernaut. But TMC insiders say that is not going to happen anytime soon. She has a roadmap and will only decide on it after seeing the results of the several Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir. She is in no hurry to land in Delhi, and her first priority is the management of Covid-19 in West Bengal. Then there is the Kolkata Municipal Corporation election and also overhauling of the cabinet and bureaucracy. After all of these are out of the way, she may try to revive the United Progressive Alliance with Sonia Gandhi still as chairperson. When the Covid wave goes away, she could hold a big rally in Kolkata where opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar and Stalin could be invited.
On the guest list for the oath-taking ceremony of Mamata Banerjee at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata, there were 64 names even though the capacity was for 80. Nobody from business circles was present while there were 13 media personalities and three vice chancellors. Then there were senior TMC leaders. Some wondered why no representatives from the Hindi and Urdu media were present. Sourav Ganguly, whose name was on the list, didn’t turn up and it led to some whispers. BJP had been planning to induct him, but it had not worked out. Mamata continues to have a good relationship with the former Indian cricket captain. By not going, was Ganguly saying that he wants to maintain equal distance from all political parties? Or, as those in his camp say, is it because of health concerns after his recent heart surgery?
Short of Money
In Rajasthan, besides Covid, there is also a revenue crisis. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took an unpopular decision to cut salaries and allowances of bureaucrats and legislators for some time. That money will be used for the management of the pandemic.
To Accept or Not
Most TMC legislators who flipped over to BJP before the West Bengal election have lost. Some apparently want to rejoin the party. When Mamata Banerjee was asked by the media about this, she spoke of considering it. But her nephew Abhishek Banerjee is against any such ghar wapsi, his argument being that they had betrayed the party.