Will she, won’t she? Oh she just did, pulling the rug from right under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) feet. So what if she stood on the same rug. Turning her imperious little back on the grand old party, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee has shown that every political analyst read her wrong.
Not all the riches in the famed Bengal bailout package, comprising among others a moratorium on the interest on central debt of over Rs.2 trillion, could lure the Bengal tigress to tango with the Congress any more. After sulking, spouting, and snarling the last approximately 10 times, Didi decided it was time to show her fangs.
And the man who must be having a quiet little chuckle is of course Pranab Mukherjee, Didi’s handler for long. Ensconced firmly in Rashtrapati Bhawan, he can’t play big brother any more, issuing a quiet reprimand—Aah ki hochey ta ki? (roughly translated: What are you doing?)—while simultaneously placating her with a gentle sweetener of a few rail factories. The Congress, though, must be sorely tempted to request him to make a discreet call to Didi, who only last week felicitated the man she initially opposed for the presidency. Indeed Dada and Didi played the sibling love-hate relationship to the hilt over the last 25 years, coinciding with Banerjee’s entry into Bengal politics.
The rest of the leaders in the Congress don’t have the nuanced calibration to handle the Bengal firebrand. Consider Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi’s remark: “Mamataji has raised some issues…” Mamataji? Chee! In the parlance of Bengal, Dada and Didi supercede all other honorary titles. Ji ranks way down. Indeed, Janardanji is ignoring the golden rule of Indian political dialogue; Didi may ‘ji’ you (as in Shoniaji) but you may not “ji” Didi.
This and similar such more private gaffes may well be the reason why the TMC leader, who has made brinkmanship a part of state craft, finally decided to call time on the alliance. In the cut and thrust of Indian politics, Didi is a rarity. A woman who knows her mind (often the only one to do that), Banerjee may well serve the purpose of forcing the heliocentric Congress to look at the new sun.