The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Such is her reputation for reducing politics to farce that it is difficult to guess if Ms Mamata Banerjee will be more elated than embarrassed at the sangh parivar likening her to goddess Durga. If she gloats over it as proof of the saffronites finally co-opting her in their fold, it will only be further confirmation of her political disorientation. She is capable of naively seeing it as a healing touch to the wound of her rather inglorious return to the Union cabinet as a minister without portfolio. If, on the other hand, she is embarrassed by the avatar thrust on her, her protestations may not quite carry conviction. After all, if she had chosen to follow the Bharatiya Janata Party, the footfall of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh could not be far behind. It would be no use to protest that her partnership with the BJP is based on the programme of the National Democratic Alliance government and not on any love for the saffron ideology. It would be just as futile for her to argue that she made common cause with the RSS because the latter shared her loathing of the communists. If the RSS responded by holding her up to further ridicule, it was the price she had to pay for her opportunistic politics.

It would all be a laughing matter but for the cynical mix of religion in the sanghís politics. Notwithstanding her posturings to the contrary, her secular credentials had taken a beating because of her association with the BJP. Her demand for Mr Narendra Modiís resignation in the wake of last yearís riots in Gujarat was a desperate attempt to repair the damage to her secular image. Despite the risk of losing the support of Muslims, who constitute nearly 24 per cent of West Bengalís population, she justified her alliance with the BJP on the ground that the compulsions of national politics made the Congress an unreliable opponent of the stateís ruling Marxists. But the fallacy of even that argument was exposed when she broke away from the NDA before the last assembly elections and aligned with the Congress. Her return to the NDA and now to the cabinet have done little to improve her credibility, as was evident in the Trinamool Congressís poor showing in recent rural and civic elections in Bengal. The last thing she needed in these difficult times was a Hindu religious association. No wonder both the Marxists and the Congressmen in Bengal have used the RSS image of Ms Banerjee to further question her claim to secular politics. What would otherwise be a matter of ridicule has thus become a case for damning her.

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