Mamata said, “TMC was ready to support the Congress nationally against the BJP, but not in West Bengal, as it had joined hands with the Communists.” Banerjee’s statement is likely to further strain her relations with the Congress. It is also indicative of the deep differences that exist within the opposition ranks.
The prospects of opposition parties uniting against Narendra Modi-led BJP in 2024 do not appear bright with senior opposition leaders making contradictory statements which show that they have deep internal differences. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s love and hate relationship with the Congress is well known but, of late, she has been issuing statements which have added to the already existing confusion in the opposition ranks.
The Trinamool Congress boss recently said that her party was ready to support the Congress, the largest opposition party, nationally against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but it should not expect her support in West Bengal as it “had joined hands with the Communists”.Banerjee’s statement made at a rally ahead of the state panchayat elections on 8 July, the run-up to which has been marred by violence, is likely to further strain her relations with the Congress. It is also indicative of the deep differences that exist within the opposition ranks.
Significantly, the TMC boss also attacked the Congress for joining hands with the BJP in West Bengal against her own party. “You have ruled many states, Congress. You are CPI(M)’s biggest friend. Also, the BJP’s here. Yet you want our support in Parliament? We will support you against the BJP, but do not come to us for help in Bengal after ‘living with the CPI(M)’ here,” she said.
The statement should be seen in the context of Mamta’s own efforts to stitch up an opposition alliance against the BJP. She has generally welcomed and supported initiatives to bring the Opposition parties on a common platform against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is in touch with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has been working hard to unite the opposition against Modi. Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, son of former chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) boss Lalu Prasad Yadav, have recently toured several non-BJP states to drum up support in favour of a front of like-minded parties.
Mamta has also supported Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s efforts to get Opposition backing in Parliament against a central ordinance that has curbed his government’s power over the administrative services. But opposition leaders, by and large, perceive her as a loose cannon which can go off any moment. Her image has also taken a beating for the continuous violence in West Bengal in the run up to the rural polls. Governor C.V. Ananda Bose has expressed concern over the issue following his visit to one of the affected areas. In a statement, the Governor said: “Shocked to hear that the death toll in pre-election violence is increasing. It is revolting that the media is also under attack by hooligans. Victory in elections should depend on the count of votes, not the count of dead bodies.”
However, the state of affairs in West Bengal has dented the opposition’s credibility and jeopardized its efforts for unity ahead of 2024 elections. The person most worried about the prospect of such developments casting a shadow on the efforts for opposition unity should be Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has been positioning himself as the potential challenger of Modi in the next general elections. Like him, several other senior opposition leaders appear worried at the way leaders like Mamata have been behaving. Such behaviour is likely to negate the goodwill generated by the recent meeting of opposition leaders in Patna. Prospects of opposition unity appear to be in jeopardy for sure at the moment.