March 6: Mamata Banerjee has grabbed an opportunity thrown up by Prakash Karat and Jayalalithaa to widen her options on friends outside Bengal — an art in which the Left had initially stolen a march over the Trinamul Congress.
Mamata today suggested she was not averse to supporting Jayalalithaa for Prime Minister if the conditions of “good governance, good government and pro-people government” were met.
“I have no problem. I am not bothered about the chair. I care about the people,” the Trinamul leader told TimesNow editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami during an interview in reply to a specific question whether she would be happy to support the Tamil Nadu chief minister if the three issues were taken care of.
When the interview took place around 2pm in Calcutta, the Left was trying to break a seat-sharing deadlock with Jayalalithaa in Chennai. By the evening, word emerged that the election pact between the Left and Jayalalithaa had been abandoned because of differences over seat allotment.
Jayalalithaa is one of the most prominent members — and contender for Prime Minister — of a prospective third front CPM leader Prakash Karat has been trying to build. The breakdown of a state-level pact need not have decisive national implications, especially since the third front was supposed to be a post-poll, not a pre-poll, arrangement.
But the Tamil Nadu rift is a personal blow to Karat who has taken the lead in sealing friendships and narrowing Mamata’s choices for a federal front.
So far, the lone national figure Mamata has been able to associate herself with is the apolitical Anna Hazare. While the Left has been claiming the support of 11 parties, Mamata’s efforts so far had been limited to small parties in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tripura.
Goswami today asked Mamata whether her party felt isolated. “No, no. This is not at all the case.”
Goswami persisted: “Hasn’t the Left already taken a lead in this with all the other national parties with them?”
Mamata: “How can they take the lead when they have lost all the credentials. This is just a tea party, nothing else. They can call this a tea break or a lunch break that they have called for.”
Mamata did not confine her options to one person. Displaying rare flexibility, the Trinamul leader said she had no problems with the long list of other prime ministerial candidates.
“….What is wrong? Nothing is wrong. If Nitish (Kumar) ji wants to become Prime Minister I will be happy; Jayalalithaa, yes; Mayawati, yes; Mulayam (Singh Yadav), yes. What is wrong? Anybody can think,” the Bengal chief minister said.
Although most leaders in Trinamul have been rooting for Mamata as the next Prime Minister, she chose to keep herself at a distance from the pack of PM hopefuls.
“I know my limitations. I said let the people decide and now you cannot say anything. After the result is out, then only people will decide. They will decide,” Mamata said.
The political message behind the flexibility — and not throwing the hat into the ring — appeared to be that she was willing to do business with any leader the Left was courting for its proposed third front.
The decision to keep it open in a fluid political environment can be regarded as a smart move, said sources close to Mamata.
Aware that her each word would be dissected by her opponents, Mamata, who is banking heavily on the minority community, revealed what she did not want.
“We cannot. Because of the communal riots,” she said, asked whether Trinamul would directly or indirectly support a Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.
Asked if she had a problem with the BJP or Narendra Modi or both, her answer was not as direct. “I said we cannot adjust with them. My answer is very clear and I cannot adjust with communal forces,” replied Mamata, who was part of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
Jayalalithaa also had a stint with a Vajpayee-led government between March 1998 and April 1999 and she had played an instrumental role in toppling it.
The next NDA government had Mamata, who maintained Jayalalithaa’s tradition of tormenting the Vajpayee regime during his second innings, before storming out of the NDA in 2001. Mamata again walked out of an alliance in 2012 when she quit the UPA government.
Asked whether she can be trusted as an alliance partner, she told Goswami: “You don’t tell me the track record… When you leave the ministry for a particular reason, for an obvious reason, then you say track record is not good.”
Mamata added that she had left NDA II after the Tehelka expose while the decision to quit the UPA government was linked to FDI in retail.
But Mamata also kept the post-election door wide open. Against the backdrop of the Left marshalling allies, Mamata said: “You ask any other party. Nobody will give you the clear picture before the elections.”