When the Congress's top leadership was under a serious attack in the National Herald case, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee stood by it, saying it didn't look good if a leader like Sonia Gandhi is summoned by the court. Many had seen in it an effort by Banerjee to scuttle the possibility of an alliance between the Congress and Left for the West Bengal Assembly election which was still four months away. [How Mamata capitalised on National Herald case ahead of Bengal polls]
Experts felt the Congress top brass could not afford to alienate Banerjee, no matter what the party's state leaders wanted to topple her from the throne, because there could be a situation after the 2019 Lok Sabha election where the Gandhis will need Banerjee to make up the numbers to give Narendra Modi at bay.
Congress's top 2 attacked Mamata after she extended moral support in National Herald case
But during the Bengal polls, it was seen that the top two leaders of the Congress attacked Mamata Banerjee in her own den. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi perhaps had little option to not to do so since they were under pressure from the state Congress leadership of an aggressive Adhir Chowdhury who was hell-bent to defeat Banerjee.
For the TMC supremo, it was more than a blow for she has always been close with the top Congress leaders irrespective of the situation in the state. Banerjee was not found taking on the Gandhis during the campaigning although the Gandhis continuously attacked her on issues of governance and corruption and even put the TMC and BJP in the same bracket.
In AgustaWestland, TMC's position has been opposite
The Congress leadership is now facing another attack in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam and just like in the National Herald case, Sonia Gandhi was seen making another "tigress"-like counter-attack. But the big question is: Will a bruised Mamata Banerjee back the Congres president ever again?
A few days ago, BJP president Amit Shah has questioned Banerjee's silence on the AgustaWestland issue but on May 2, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari asked TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy to withdraw from the House for the day since he had raised the chopper issue, despite his notice getting rejected.
Known to be mercurial, Banerjee might now wait for the results of the just-concluded election to come out and if predictions about her sweeping the polls come true, it is very much likely that the TMC supremo will go after her adversaries. In that case, are chances of Banerjee's return to national stage bleakest ever?
This could have significant impact in 2019 LS polls
The Congress is the only party which Banerjee will side with openly at the national level. In 2019, if neither the Congress nor the BJP can get a majority, Banerjee is expected to join the former more than the latter.
Will Mamata eye to lead a third front in 2019? It's too early to say now but yet...
But the Congress's twin moves of reaching an understanding with the Left and then its top leaders attacking the TMC supremo in this Bengal election may have done enough damage to that possibility. If Banerjee continues to harbour the disappointment of 2016 in 2019, then there is every chance of her losing significance at the national stage as a coalition partner.
Instead, if her party comes out with flying colours from Bengal as in 2014 when it won 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, then she could be a potential leader of a third front challenging both the Congress and BJP-led alliances.
If the likes of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Arvind Kejriwal, Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa agree to a third alternative, then who knows what could be in store for Indian politics.
It is true that the idea of third front has remained elusive so far and there are several ifs and buts on its way before it becomes a viable alternative, but for Banerjee, the journey ahead could be very interesting.