Calcutta, May 23: Amit Mitra and Mukul Roy will attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi while Mamata Banerjee opens a memorial to Kazi Nazrul Islam — a division of responsibilities aimed at ensuring that neither the bridges to New Delhi are burnt nor the Trinamul political plank is dented.
The formal announcement on Mitra, industries minister and an erstwhile admirer of Vibrant Gujarat, and Roy, Trinamul all-India general secretary, brings the curtains down on intense speculation and suggestions that the Trinamul Congress would boycott the swearing-in.
“Narendra Modi has invited the chief minister to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Mamatadi will be busy at Rajarhat to inaugurate Nazrul Tirtha (the memorial to the poet). Amit Mitra and Mukul Roy will attend the (New Delhi) event on our behalf,” Firhad Hakim, the urban development minister and Mamata’s close aide, said today.
Surjya Kanta Mishra, Opposition leader in the Bengal Assembly and a politburo member, said late this evening that no “CPM leader from the state” would attend Modi’s swearing-in.
The chief minister’s engagement at Nazrul Tirtha — coinciding with the poet’s birth anniversary — was fixed well in advance. But some Trinamul leaders said they were certain that Mamata would not have attended the New Delhi programme even if she had no other engagement that day.
“Mamatadi got engaged in a war of words with Modi before the polls and had called him names…. Besides, she had projected herself as the fulcrum of the anti-Modi axis. How can she attend his swearing-in?” asked a leader.
The Trinamul view was articulated — hours before Hakim’s announcement at Nabanna — by Contai MP Sisir Adhikary who attacked the Prime Minister-elect and said no Trinamul MP would attend the ceremony.
“We do not want to see the face of Modi. They are still carrying the scars of communal riots. So what if he is the Prime Minister? Do we have to salute him?” asked Adhikary senior, on the sidelines of a programme where he and his son, Tamluk MP Subhendu, were felicitated.
But a total Trinamul boycott of the swearing-in, a leader said, would have sent wrong signals and worsened the Centre-state relationship. “That’s why Amitda and Mukulda are going,” he added, pointing out that neither is a Lok Sabha MP (Roy is a Rajya Sabha MP).
Although Trinamul has bagged 34 of the 42 seats in Bengal, Mamata’s plans to play kingmaker in Delhi came to an abrupt end with the BJP getting single-party majority.
Some Trinamul leaders said they felt that the chief minister had realised the need for a working relationship with the Centre to run the state government.
“This is a matter of courtesy…. Our political differences with the BJP remain…. But they are going to run the central government, while we have to run the state government. Administrative co-operation will be required,” said a source.
“As the head of a state government, she cannot avoid the Centre altogether,” another source said.
According to Trinamul insiders, Mitra, who knows Modi since the minister’s days as Ficci secretary-general, is Mamata’s best bet to keep channels of communication open with the new Prime Minister.
Ficci had played a key role in organising Vibrant Gujarat, the biennial business summit that started in 2003 and helped Modi put Gujarat on the investment roadmap.
On the first day of the summit on September 28, 2003, Mitra had showered praise on the event. “In my six years of experience as secretary-general of the country’s leading apex body, I have not seen a single investor meet that has yielded serious MoUs intended to invest,” Mitra had said then.
Mitra has changed his position — and has often criticised the “Gujarat model” —since joining Trinamul.
Mamata appears to have decided to strike a balance between attacking Modi politically to keep her minority vote bank intact and maintaining a working relationship with the Centre to run the state.
That Mamata did not want anyone to speculate about Trinamul cosying up to the BJP was evident earlier this week when she reprimanded Dum Dum MP Sougata Roy for advocating a “no-confrontation policy immediately” with the new government at the Centre. Roy had to retract his statement within hours.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha said this evening: “We welcome that good sense has finally prevailed on the chief minister and she is sending her representatives…. But since the swearing-in ceremony is going to be a historic event, ideally she should have attended it. This would have sent a positive message.”