All political parties now want to leverage maximum brownie points out of the NRC issue (PHOTO: PTI)
The exclusion of four million people from the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) draft published by the Assam government is burning political corridors. All political parties now want to leverage maximum brownie points out of it. Their ultimate aim is to consolidate their vote bank through the heated process.
Leading the race is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She has not only been extremely aggressive about but also issuing negligent statement. It doesn’t become of Banerjee who is sitting at the highest government position of a state to showcase her fiery temperament on such a sensitive issue.
Mamata even said that the NRC exercise will lead to “civil war” and “blood bath” in the country. Gradually, she is accelerating her rhetoric on the issue.
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Interestingly, other non-Congress chief ministers are treading cautiously, while the current situation is what both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) want as of now.
Banerjee knows very well that the Opposition lacks an acceptable frontrunner for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Each veteran politician is conjoined with some or the other laggard. Let’s take each of the important personalities and how they are pulled back by a corresponding resistive force.
Mulayam Singh Yadav: A well-accepted face of the Opposition could be Mulayam Singh Yadav but he is battling infighting in his party. There’s a power struggle among the Yadavs - Mulayam, Akhilesh and Shivpal.
Amar Singh: Moreover, with rumours of Amar Singh joining the BJP, the dynamics of Uttar Pradesh politics is all set to further complicate.
Mayawati: The Dalit face, Mayawati cannot survive singlehandedly, hence rather unwillingly she will have to collaborate with the Samajwadi Party.
Rahul Gandhi: For the Congress, Rahul Gandhi is the default prime ministerial candidate but to be at the bargaining position, it has to emerge as the single largest party.
Others in Congress: Internally, the Congress may be factionised between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh while in Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh likes to runs his own show.
In Bihar: While Lallu Yadav is virtually toothless with cases of corruption against him. Nitish Kumar who was once considered the most suitable contender for PM post is only too happy to be in Bihar with BJP’s support while Sharad Pawar, who long cherished to be PM do not have the numbers from his party. Although he is one of the key interlocutors among non-BJP parties the Congress may not want to hand him the baton particularly after their experience with him in the Congress.
Down south in Karnataka, H D Deve Gowda is tied to his son’s love for the CM post, hence cannot afford any misadventure as the Congress here holds the string while in Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu has already walked into the YSR trap. Modi’s praise for TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao during the no-confidence motion has already set the ball rolling for his foray into the NDA anytime.
Meanwhile, in Tamil Nadu, the BJP covertly seems to be the peace-maker in the AIADMK between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam. The other strong leader Karunanidhi of the DMK is ailing with bad health.
This leaves Banerjee, who virtually does not have any political competition in West Bengal. Therefore, she can play her cards confidently at the National level. She has met with most Opposition leaders and some of the disgruntled BJP MPs as well, subtly trying to convey to all that she is the strongest force to take on the BJP provided all support her.
The BJP has cleverly thrown the bait of NRC to Banerjee as it sees its benefits in either case. If. Banerjee takes the bait, then the BJP can rake the issue of illegal migrants at the national level, something which would very easily stick to public sentiments of nationalism. This may lead to polarisation of votes and consolidation at the BJP’s end.
Those voters who seemed to have been drifting away from the BJP might undergo a heart change. Further, it may paint Banerjee as a leader trying to appease a section of society at the cost of the nation. If she doesn’t, then her imagery as the strongest face of opposition may get a dent as she may be a termed a leader fit for regional level politics only.
If NRC exercise is done in WB which seems a possibility, votes in Bengal may swing significantly for the BJP.
The BJP has been eyeing two key states for the Lok Sabha 2019 elections – West Bengal and Kerala. In the current scenario, the BJP is comfortable and is waiting for the next move of the TMC.