West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Image Credit: ANI

Mamata Banerjee, three term Chief Minister (CM) of West Bengal, is know to be an opaque, unpredictable political leader. The only thing you can say with any certainty about Banerjee is that she is a fighter.

Watching Banerjee clearly on the back foot and uncharacteristically fumbling on the alleged corruption of her industry and commerce minister, Partha Chatterjee, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his alleged role in the state school jobs scam. Banerjee seems to distance herself from her minister.

She also ensured that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) totally disowned the minister’s partner, actor Arpita Mukherjee, who the ED had allegedly recovered ₹20 crores (9 million Dhs) from, saying that she was not even a member of the TMC.

In an attempt to further distance herself from the growing scandal, Banerjee apparently dodged four calls made to her by Chatterjee before his arrest. At one time Chatterjee was a close aide of Banerjee.

Throwing a fit

After her record third win in West Bengal, Banerjee has been hugely uncomfortable. The central enforcement agencies are breathing down her family necks. Nephew Abhishek Banerjee and his wife have been repeatedly summoned by the ED.

Banerjee’s attempt to take her brand national met with the debacle of the Goa elections, where the TMC pumped in huge funds after the promises made by election strategist Prashant Kishor. The TMC came a cropper and Banerjee famously lost her temper with PK, who had promised her the moon.

Banerjee’s attempt to lead the opposition and replace the Congress as India’s pan India party first saw her attack Rahul Gandhi and then project Sharad Pawar as the leader to project in the election for the President of India. Pawar wisely refused, knowing that he would lose and not wanting to give up active electoral politics.

Angry with the declaration of veteran Congress leader Margret Alva as the candidate for veep, Banerjee gave the opposition an earful and publicly said she would not support Alva as she was not consulted. With this flex Banerjee kicked a giant hole in opposition unity with barely two years to go for the general elections.

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Nobody knows what Mamata Banerjee will do next Image Credit: AFP

Supping with political foes

The West Bengal CM in effect decided to help her bête noire, Jagdeep Dhankar, the Governor of West Bengal who had daily run-ins with Banerjee. Dhankar is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) choice for the office of the Vice President and will run the Rajya Sabha where the TMC has a loud presence.

Banerjee’s stand came as a shock to the opposition leaders who were incredulous with disbelief that Banerjee would abstain and help her opponent. But, that’s Banerjee for you — a bundle of contradictions and surprises.

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A picture of Banerjee having herself a tea party with Dhankar and Himanta Biswa Sarma Assam CM went viral and caused acid chatter in political circles specially as Sarma is now one of the principal trouble shooters of the BJP, pulling off coup after coup.

When the Thackeray government was topped in Maharashtra, the Shinde Sena MLAs were kept safe in Guwahati under the watchful eye of Sarma.

Banerjee dismissed all chatter about her tea with Sarma. But, that hardly tamped down viral speculation. Was Banerjee who’s national move had failed and who showed her public disenchantment with Rahul Gandhi, ready to bury the hatchet with Prime Minister Modi and the BJP?

Specially since Banerjee had earlier been a member of the Vajpayee cabinet. Speculation grew that she would support the BJP if they left West Bengal to her. The BJP is currently the main opposition in Kolkata.

Banerjee has also lost patience with her tempestuous firebrand MP, Mahua Moitra, ticking her off in public for factionalism and the TMC condemning her comments on the deity Kali.

Mamata’s moves are anxiously being watched by the opposition. Nobody knows what she will do next.

Watch this space.