If NDA was Mamata's "natural ally" in 2001, why not today?

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In 2001, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee said during an interview to veteran journalist Karan Thapar that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is her natural ally and there was every possibility of her returning to the BJP-led front. She had said this after her party, an alliance with the Congress, fared disastrously in the West Bengal assembly elections, winning just 86 out of 294 seats. Banerjee had left Atal Bihari Vajpayee's NDA government at the Centre after the Tehelka expose earlier that year and allied with the Congress in her state and many observers had felt the decision had backfired.

The TMC chief said in her interview that she always supported Vajpayee and her support for the NDA was on the basis of the common commitment. There was an effort to forge a grand alliance between the TMC, Congress and BJP to defeat the Left in West Bengal but the Congress's top leadership did not agree.

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The complicated scenario hence was: Trinamool lad left the NDA at the Centre but continued with its alliance with the BJP in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. It was in an alliance with the Congress for the state assembly polls and also said in May 2001 that the alliance continued. In August that year, Banerjee said she was going alone. She also brushed aside the dissent which was shown by late leader of her party Ajit Panjam, who wanted the alliance with the NDA intact.

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Banerjee, in the interview to Thapar, had told that the equations of the central and state differed. She had said that she backed Vajpayee at the Centre but needed a big alliance to defeat the Left in the state.

Today, CM Mamata has a lot at stake

Thirteen years after, Banerjee's politics of uncertainty hasn't changed though her political fortunes have. She is now the chief minister of West Bengal (although she had said in the interview that the post of CM is not everything and she is a LIP unlike a VIP) and has more at stake than that in 2001. The Muslim vote-bank is a major concern for the TMC chief despite the fact that she is an unchallenged power in West Bengal today.

The Saradha chit-fund scam has not only strengthened the anti-incumbency mood against her government but also has posed a serious threat to her image of honesty, which had helped her in a million fights with the once formidable Left in Bengal. The contribution made by national leaders like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi to make the Saradha issue go viral during the crucial polls wounded Banerjee further.

It is true that TMC and BJP share political similarities but...

So is the natural ally of the Opposition leader Mamata Banerjee, who had more freedom in doing things, is not so natural for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee? A natural ally is defined by basic ideological similarity and there is no denying that both the BJP and TMC are rightist in nature, making them perfect political allies. But the problem has been posed by the TMC chief's deperate effort to fill in the vacuum which has been created by the rapid collapse of the Left in West Bengal. As Banerjee pulls her party towards the Left, another vacuum is being created in West Bengal which is being filled by a resurgent BJP.

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Banerjee's fickle-mindedness has landed her in an ideological crisis. The chances of her federal front look bleak now with important regional leaders like Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik rethinking their positions, which is expected to come out with flying colours on May 16. And with the Saradha scam also posing a serious threat to her honesty, Banerjee will need to make a herculean effort from here on to command respect in national politics.

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