West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accepted the invitation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to attend an international event organised on November 17 and 18 to commemorate India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The country is set to observe the 125th birth anniversary of the man on November 14, which is celebrated as Children's Day every year.
Is the meeting just a formal one or that between two leaders who have been cornered in national politics at the moment, thanks to the Narendra Modi wave?
Time to unite secular forces against communal threats: Mamata
Though the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief said it would not be right to see her meeting with Sonia as a political occasion, she also said that at a time when the country is facing threats from communal forces, it is important to unite the secular forces and nothing could be better than starting in that direction on the birth anniversary of Nehru, who is known for his secular credentials.
The statement had a clear direction.
Mamata close to Congress after over 2 years
Banerjee's upcoming meeting with Sonia Gandhi will the first since September 2012 when she party pulled out of the previous UPA government to protest its 'anti-people' policies. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been invited at the event, which has made the speculation more wild.
Political observers feel the TMC would have to inch closer to the Congress to stop the BJP's rise in Bengal ahead of the 2016 assembly election, which already has become a prestige battle. It resembles the time when talks of a grand alliance featuring the TMC, Congress and BJP were floated to counter the dominant Left in the state.
All three big parties in Bengal now worried with BJP's rise
Though it did not materialise then but now with the TMC deciding to make a monster out of Modi and his party which has dwarfed every other opponent at this moment, a grand alliance against the BJP might not be impossible. For all the three main parties of Bengal all these years, the TMC, Congress and Left Front are facing a threat to their survival, with the first breathing a little better.
But Bengal Congress is too divided to befriend Mamata: Sonia will have a tough call
But it will be a tough call for the Congress's top leadership. The party's Bengal unit is multi-fragmented and leaders like Adhir Chowdhury, who is the PCC chief now, and Deepa Dasmunshi, a former Union minister, are known for their strong anti-Mamata stand.
The Congress will have a tough call in making alliance with Mamata straightaway
A large section of the party's state leadership is in favour of allying with the Left for the next election and that might make it more uncomfortable for Sonia Gandhi to make an alliance with Banerjee right away. In 2016, we may see a three-cornered fight between TMC, BJP and Left-Congress alliance and if the BJP manages to steal a substantial share of Banerjee's vote-share, there is little doubt that the 2021 election will see an alliance of the TMC-Left-Congress taking on the BJP.
Sonia also invited Prakash Karat
Sonia Gandhi has also invited CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat to the Nehru anniversary event. The latter has faced dissent in the party after the Left failed to stop his continuous slip in the national politics and might be looking to undo the 'historical blunder' of pulling out of the UPA I over the nuclear agreement with the US in 2008.
Nehru is just an occasion. The target is Modi.