Calcutta, Jan. 6: The BJP high command sidestepped Mamata’s return to Brigade. Though the Trinamul Congress continues to be an ally, the signal was clear: she is on the margin and not as trusted.
Mamata Banerjee and her men jiggled their networks in Delhi many a time in the past few weeks to get central BJP leaders to address the rally but the efforts bore no fruit.
Defence minister George Fernandes was there but Mamata’s efforts to show the electorate in the run-up to the panchayat elections that she was still valued in Delhi’s power circles turned a damp squib.
The absence of the central BJP leaders from the rally also revealed the real position of state party president Tathagata Roy in Delhi.
The Tapan Sikdar-Muzaffar Khan combine, the rebel group in the state BJP, now appears to have a better access to the central leadership. Mamata and a section of her party had hoped that Roy would help them secure Delhi’s blessings. That did not happen.
The Trinamul chief tried hard to rope in a star BJP leader to attend today’s rally. But her move was countered by the Sikdar-Khan group, which has been accusing her of “humiliating” the BJP and the NDA leadership by walking in and out of the ruling coalition in the Centre.
Through December, Mamata had tried to get either Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee or his deputy, L.K. Advani, to attend the rally. When it became clear that neither would be available, she drew up a second list, which included BJP president Venkaiah Naidu and general secretary Arun Jaitley.
When these efforts failed as well, she made a desperate bid for another BJP general secretary — and the party’s most prominent minority face — Muktar Abbas Naqvi.
“The central BJP’s rejection shows it has a long memory. In the past, Mamata had on several occasions played Opposition party to us and the the NDA,” said a state BJP leader.