Kolkata, March 23: Are one-time allies Congress and Trinamool Congress keeping their doors open for a future tie-up? While it could be too early to discuss any timeframe for the estranged allies to come together again, events of the past week have indicated a thaw in their six-month-long bitter war.
It all started with a volatile external affairs issue that has been causing significant churning in India’s internal politics – the US sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council pulling up Sri Lanka for military excesses during the final stages of the war that vanquished the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009 (LTTE).
As the date for the vote drew near, the DMK – second largest constituent in the Congress-led UPA coalition at the centre – withdrew its support to the UPA government and pulled out its five ministers.
As the Congress managers swung into action to control the fallout of DMK chief M. Karunannidhi’s announcement, they turned their attention to the Trinamool – which had also walked out of the coalition last September in protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government’s decision to raise diesel and fertiliser prices, restrict the number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders and allow FDI in multi-brand retail.
Two powerful Congress ministers Kamal Nath and Jairam Ramesh are said to have dialled Trinamool supermo Mamata Banerjee, seeking her party’s backing on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
Banerjee responded, first by asking the party to tweet the Trinamool’s stand, and then she logged on to her facebook account to promise support to the UPA on the matter.
“”We leave it to the central government to decide on such issues. However, the concerns of the state and the sentiments of the people must be kept in view by the centre, before taking any decision pertaining to a foreign country,” she said.
Political observers feel the results of last month’s assembly by-polls that saw the Trinamool finishing third in two constituencies and the more immediate need to get funds from the centre for implementing development schemes she has announced, prompted Banerjee to send positive vibes to the Congress.
Besides, there seems to be growing realisation in the party that the division of votes between the Congress and the Trinamool was hurting the Banerjee led outfit more, as its sole stake is in West Bengal. And so a seat adjustment with the Congress was important for sending in a considerable number of MPs to the Lok Sabha after the next general elections.
However, there are also some political experts who think the Trinamool cannot afford to have the Congress as a long-term ally. Trinamool’s target is to expand its base throughout the state and emerge as the sole opponent of the Left Front, something it cannot do without constantly chipping at the Congress’ base in North Bengal.
Days after Banerjee brought cheers to the Congress camp, the party responded by refusing to vote for an opposition Left Front motion in the state assembly against continuing attacks on democratic institutions in the state. The Congress lawmakers criticised the Mamata Banerjee regime, but avoided taking part in the voting by staging a walk out.
Later, asked whether the stage was being set for the Congress and the Trinamool to get closer, senior Congress legislator Manas Bhunia’s tone was far from dismissive: “We have not severed the ties. Someone else has done so. And so it is for those who have severed the tie to come forward and announce their stand”.
Asked whether the Congress has kept its door ajar for the Trinamool, Bhunia quipped: “Congress is like an ocean. So many rivers, rivulets and canals have mingled in it”.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at email@example.com)