BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a quintessential rebel and a known Modi baiter, was in Delhi to meet someone who she doesn’t see eye to eye with – Narendra Modi. But as she met the Prime Minister on Wednesday to urge changing her state’s name from West Bengal to Bangla, and then met Amit Shah on Thursday to express ‘concern’ over NRC, her demeanor softened much.
Her stern opposition to “inhuman and autocratic” National Register for Citizens (NRC) turned into a concern and the rebellious defiance turned into submission. Many, including the opposition, blame it on the CBI’s hyper enthusiasm to track down Rajeev Kumar, the former Kolkata Police Commissioner, in the Saradha chit fund scam. It is believed Kumar knows way too much for Mamata to sit on a dharna in Kolkata for Kumar, this February when CBI sleuths went to question him. Bengal’s Congress President Somen Mitra accused her of trying to find an “escape route” for her trusted aide.
While Mamata Banerjee has rubbished speculation about the intention of her meeting, it’s a fact that she met the Prime Minister after a long spell of 15 months. And what transpired between the two meetings in May, 2018 and September, 2019 was a chief minister of a state becoming the darling of opposition for her outspoken and often vitriolic charge at PM Modi to a softened political leader who is keen on a successful centre-state relation.
Here’s a look back at the Mamata that was but no longer is.
* She may have brought multiple packets of ‘sandesh’ (a Bengali variety of sweet) from well-known Kolkata confectionery for Modi on Wednesday, but not long ago she wanted to “break the Prime Minister’s teeth”. In April this year, she had threatened, “Narendra Modi is coming to Bengal regularly to seek votes. But the people will give him ‘rosogollas’ made of clay with fillings of gravel; his teeth will break if he tries to take a bite”.
* Addressing a public rally in Asansol, the constituency of BJP leader Babul Supriyo, during the 2019 election campaigning, she hit out at “laddoo” to target Modi. “They don’t have minimum courtesy. Whoever ate Delhi’s laddoo has regretted it. In 2014, they got two seats and this time they will get a big rosogolla. They will get a big zero,” said she.
* She has jailed people for chanting “Jai Shri Ram” in Bengal. Her animated verbal spats with BJP cadres who chanted the slogan became a talk of the nation. She, in fact, once instructed the police to arrest those who shouted “Jai Shri Ram” as her car passed. Her animosity towards the phrase came from the perception that ‘Ram’ is synonymous with the BJP.
* She even hit out at Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party for “using” Lord Ram for election. In a sharp jibe, she had alleged in May this year, “…look at Modi Babu. Whenever there is an election, they make Lord Ram an agent and seek votes. The Mohant of Kapil Muni Ashram at Gangasagar first told me this.”
* The animosity reached such a bitter proportion, she took to Twitter to announce that she would skip the oath-taking ceremony of PM Modi for his second time in power. The Bengal CM, high on brazenness had tweeted: “So I am sorry, Narendra Modi ji, this has compelled me not to attend the ceremony. The ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to scoreApolitical points. Please excuse me”. Her decision was based on claims by the BJP that 54 of its party workers were murdered in political violence in Bengal.
This is a small list of utterances by Mamata Banerjee, the face of anti-Modi brigade.
She had disallowed Amit Shah’s chopper to land at pre-designated helipad, she had declined Yogi Adityanath’s helicopter to land at all in Purulia, forcing the Uttar Pradesh CM to reach the rally ground by car, from Jhharkahnd.
The Tripura Chief Minister’s office had officially raised objections with the Mamata administration for not enabling security of Biplab Deb, who was slated to campaign for BJP in West Bengal. She scuttled BJP’s rath yatra and fought a long legal battle up to the Supreme Court.
On May 2018, during the convocation ceremony for Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, Modi and Mamata had met. The next meeting took place this Wednesday. The long period in between was full with shrill barbs and Rafale allegations from Mamata’s end. She had even called Modi a “master of corruption”.
Banerjee had skipped all meetings chaired by the Prime Minister. It went to a point of no return when she had refused to talk to the Prime Minister over the phone when the PMO tried to call her in the wake of Cyclone Fani, earlier this year.
But, on Wednesday as a smiling Mamata entered 7 Lok Kalyan Marg with a bouquet of yellow flowers, a color of friendship, it seemed a different avatar of her that even she hadn’t dreamt of making a comeback for Modi. The body language was casual, the tension was absent, at least going by the optics.
Did Rajeev Kumar, her trusted cop, now untraceable, who the CBI’s 14-member crack team is looking for, facilitate this ‘Mission Impossible’? Be as it may, the ‘Danga Babu’ (‘Riot Man’), as Mamata often refers to Modi, has turned “Prime Minister” for her.