For the second time in two days, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee has voiced concerns about the BJP resorting to horse-trading after the elections in case the difference in numbers of seats between the two parties is slim.
This has refocused attention on Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s statement yesterday about chances of support to Mamata Banerjee if needed after May 2. Mr Chowdhury had denied the possibility but signed off saying, “Politics is the art of the possible. Anything can happen.”
Speaking at a rally at Domjur in Howrah on Thursday, Ms Banerjee said, “They have so much money. They are buying up everyone. Many political leaders have been bought already. Many traitors and Mir Jaffars purchased. They are saying, you need money? Take this. Just don’t campaign. Or they are giving money and saying pay back later, meaning, come with the BJP later. This is not Bengal’s culture.”
On Wednesday, at Cooch Behar, she said, “It is no use to me winning my seat alone. My vote is done. I will win. Wherever I stand, I will win. But I cannot form a government if I win alone. Out of 294 seats, I need a minimum of 200. We have to cross 200. Otherwise, the BJP will give money and buy up some traitors.”
As Mamata Banerjee puts in place a post-poll strategy in case of a thin win, could Adhir Chowdhury’s statement signal a glimmer of hope? On Wednesday, at a meet-the-press event at the Kolkata Press Club, the Congress chief of Bengal was asked, if Trinamool needs help to form a government, will Congress help?
“I have no answer to hypothetical questions. We are fighting to capture the state secretariat Nabanna. Mamata Banerjee has lost. I don’t know where she will go. It may happen that when we are capturing the secretariat, Mamata Banerjee may appeal to Samyukta Morcha to save herself,” Mr Chowdhury said, adding, “Politics is the art of the possible, anything than happen.”
The question was, will Congress help Trinamool form government in Bengal if needed? Adhir Chowdhury is such a staunch critic of Mamata Banerjee, the expected answer was an unequivocal ‘Never’.
That he said what he did – that politics is the art of the possible – sparked so much speculation that he may have meant yes, the party had put out an angry rejoinder, calling that interpretation fake news.
Pradip Bhattacharjee, Congress MP, said, “Politics is the art of possible is theoretical, utopian. The situation at this moment is so fluid that no conclusion by any political party or person.”
The absence of star Congress campaigners in Bengal so far has also set tongues wagging about the Congress’s real stand on Trinamool. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned widely in Kerala and Assam. Why not Bengal? Is that because of a soft spot for Mamata Banerjee in some Congress quarters not shared by Adhir Chowdhury? The Congress says Rahul Gandhi will come to strongholds Malda and Murshidabad that vote in later phases.
Meanwhile, since writing to Sonia Gandhi on the need for opposition unity against BJP, Mamata’s tirade against Congress is toned down. In the past, she would blast all three partners in the Samyukta Morcha – the Left, Congress and the Indian Secular Front – with equal vehemence. But lately, her wrath has been specifically reserved for the ISF which she has accused of trying to divide the minority vote that has traditionally gone with the Trinamool Congress.
On May 2, if the Trinamool and BJP emerge neck-and-neck, Congress insiders admit the party won’t have a choice, along with the Left, but to support Trinamool. But the BJP’s detractors say it may already be reaching out to candidates with offers too good to refuse. That contention has been dismissed by the BJP as a case of sour grapes.