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Rajnath plays good cop, just in case…

May 2: BJP national president Rajnath Singh today iterated his promise of a special financial package for Bengal if the NDA came to power, extending the olive branch to Mamata Banerjee at a time Narendra Modi has stepped up the heat on the Bengal chief minister.

Sources in the BJP read in Singh’s move an effort to not burn the bridges with regional parties whose cooperation the BJP might need in “conducting business in Parliament” should it win the Lok Sabha polls. The sources also pointed to a difference in the “political temperament” of Modi and Singh, but hastened to add that there was no “internal crisis”.

Around the same time Singh struck a conciliatory note at a rally in North 24-Parganas’ Naihati, Mamata told a public meeting in Midnapore town that those “spreading canards” about Trinamul in public were “in touch” with her in private. She refrained from taking any names.

At the Naihati rally, Singh asked Mamata why she was “fighting” with the BJP. “We have often heard the state government complain about being deprived by the Centre. Mamataji, why are you fighting with the BJP? Your fight is with the CPM and the Congress. If the BJP comes to power, the Centre will provide a special package to the Bengal government. Bengal’s development also means the country’s development,” he said.

Singh had made the offer of a package at a rally he addressed with BJP prime ministerial candidate Modi at Brigade on February 5. Modi, too, had tried to reach out to Mamata at the rally, mooting a symbiotic relationship between the governments in Bengal and Delhi and saying: “A change has happened in Bengal. You give me a chance in Delhi. You will have laddoos in both hands.”

Since then, the Gujarat chief minister has hardened his stand on Mamata, criticising her at a rally in Siliguri on April 10 and promising sternest action at a public meeting in Serampore on April 27 against those involved in the Saradha scam if the BJP came to power.

At the campaign meeting in Midnapore today, Mamata, who has often referred to Modi as the “face of riots”, said it was becoming “clear” as the elections were progressing that Trinamul would “play a key role” in the formation of the next government.

“Those who have been spreading canards against us are keeping in touch with us in private. We are also keeping a watch on the situation. We will want a government that will help us get our dues,” Mamata said.

The state BJP is “happy” with Modi’s recent criticism of Mamata at a time the party is expecting an improved show in Bengal. The BJP sources, however, said Singh’s statements did not indicate a change in the party’s attitude towards its former ally.

“All doors of communication cannot be shut on her (Mamata’s) face. Tactically, it helps if someone in the BJP’s top echelon sounds a bit positive about Mamata. Even if there is no post-poll alliance, we will have to run Parliament and will need Trinamul’s help in conducting business on the floor of the House,” a source said.

A BJP source privy to Singh’s views on managing alliances and coalition politics said the party president’s conciliatory gesture towards Mamata was in sync with his “political temperament”.

“There is a difference in attitude between him and Modi but it is not so glaring as to cause an internal crisis in the BJP,” the source said.

The source said a BJP-led government could not expect the Congress or the Left or the “self-professed secular” entities such as the Samajwadi Party, RJD and the JD(U) to be “particularly cooperative”.

“That leaves us to deal with the other big regional players like Trinamul, the BJD and the AIADMK. We cannot afford to alienate them and hope to do parliamentary business. The big picture has to be kept in mind,” the source added.