Kolkata, April 24: The Opposition produced yet another googly for Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday by producing an old interview showing the latter saying the BJP is her natural ally.
In the video of the interview that Banerjee gave to BBC in the past, she said her party kept the option of returning to the BJP-led NDA open. "They (BJP) are our natural ally," she said. Banerjee had walked out of the NDA following the Tehelka expose but faced a humiliating defeat in the Bengal Assembly election that year which she contested with the Congress as her ally. [From our archives: If NDA was Mamata's "natural ally" in 2001, why not today?]
The Congress released the footage ahead of the fourth phase of the Bengal election on Monday (April 25) which will see two districts of the state with a sizeable minority population going to the polls. While the North 24-Parganas bordering Bangladesh has 25 per cent minority population, in the neighbouring Howrah, it is 30 per cent.
Ahead of polling in districts with high Muslim voters, this is a blow
The BJP did well in these two districts in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In some seats in these two districts, the party even got nearly 40 per cent of votes.
The TMC will expect the BJP to maintain its good vote-share in these seats so that the anti-establishment votes remain divided. But with the footage of the old interview of Banerjee coming out in the open, the TMC will have a fresh challenge and that will be to maintain its minority vote-bank intact. Being a "natural ally" of the BJP, the ruling party may find it difficult. [Phase 4 is make-or-break for BJP]
The Left Front and Congress, who reached an electoral understanding for this election, have time and again accused the TMC and BJP of having an understanding between them. They have said the CBI's "losing momentum" in the Saradha chit-fund scam, the "secret meeting" between top BJP and TMC leaders; the NDA government's "lack of intent" to initiate a probe in the Narada sting operation in the Rajya Sabha---are examples of the two parties' subtle understanding. But there was no direct evidence on this that they could produce. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also attacked the BJP and TMC on this issue in his rallies in the state.
Cong released video just ahead of polls in districts having high minority voters
And now, after releasing Banerjee's old interview, the Congress has played a significant stroke against the TMC before election in the two districts with a significant minority population.
Though on the face of it, the TMC has refused to see anything big in this footage. It countered by saying one should also bring to the fore the footage showing late CPI(M) stalwart Jyoti Basu and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the same stage with late prime minister VP Singh in Kolkata in the late 1980s.