Before every Presidential election in the country since 2012, the politician who jumps forward for the ‘kingmaker’ tag is West Bengal Chief Minister and All India Trinamool Congress supremo, Mamata Banerjee. And every time she is against the countrys ruling party candidate irrespective of whether the Trinamool Congress is a part of the national ruling front or not.
This time also she has come forward to project herself as a key catalyst in uniting the opposition parties against the candidate of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The only difference is that this time she has made her move even before the ruling NDA has announced its Presidential candidate unlike the previous two times when she acted only after the candidate of the ruling front was announced.
Will Mamata Banerjee, this time, be successful in projecting herself as a kingmaker by at least managing to field a common opposition candidate or will her attempt this time be as futile as in the two previous times.
IANS spoke to a section of political observers and leaders on this count and almost all of them said that the early scenario shows that the outcome of Mamata Banerjee’s efforts will be no different that what it was before.
In 2012, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s candidate was the late Pranab Mukherjee and the All India Trinamool Congress was then part of the UPA.
However, she took a stand against Pranab Mukherjee, aligned with the then Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and tried to field former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam. However, Kalam laid down a condition that he would contest only if he is the unanimous choice of all political parties in the country. Before Mamata Banerjee could scout for a second candidate, Mulayam Singh Yadav quietly reached an understanding with the Congress and announced his support for Pranab Mukherjee.
Finally, Mamata Banerjee also had to announce her support for Pranab Mukherjee, which in her own words was with “a saddened heart.”
In 2017, despite keeping a comparatively low profile and knowing that she was fighting a losing battle, Mamata Banerjee tried to garner support for the UPA candidate and former Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar against the NDA candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, who was eventually elected by a huge margin.
Political analysts see a common pattern of jumping into the fray without proper homework in all these three cases since 2012.
According to political analyst Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborty, this time she called a meeting of all the opposition parties at New Delhi’s Constitution Club on June 15 without proper homework and thorough discussions with the leaders of each party she invited. “As a result, despite being invited parties like the TRS, AAP and Biju Janata Dal did not send representatives to the meeting. She tried to project Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar as the unanimous opposition candidate. But Pawar himself backed out from contesting. So, when the beginning is such then it is well imaginable what will be the end. In 2012 she made the same mistake by relying solely on Mulayam Singh Yadav to take a stand against Pranab Mukherjee, whom her arch political rival CPI(M) was also supporting,” Chakraborty said.
In fact, despite sending a representative to the Constitution Club meeting, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury too expressed his displeasure over the manner in which the meeting was convened in a hurry without any proper discussion with the stakeholders.
According to another political analyst Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, although in the current political situation there is a necessity for the opposition to get united, it is not an easy task. “The chief minister knows very well that she is fighting a losing battle as she did before. The Constitution Club meeting was just a desperate attempt on her part to hog the national limelight on the Presidential poll and that is why her party is stressing more on the presence of 17 parties at the meeting instead of admitting the absence of many other important regional forces,” Mukhopadhyay said.
The BJP leaders in West Bengal have already ridiculed the chief minister’s attempts on this count. According to Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, even the leaders of other political parties realized how fruitless that meeting was and hence they did not attend. “The NDA candidate this time will have a bigger victory margin than what it was in the last polls,” he said.
Trinamool Congress leaders are busy highlighting the fact that Mamata Banerjee was the first leader nationally who had taken an honest initiative to unite the opposition on the Presidential poll.