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Mainstream, VOL LX No 32, New Delhi, July 30, 2022

Yashwant Sinha betrayed by his secular and democratic friends | Arun Srivastava

Friday 29 July 2022

by Arun Srivastava

Traumatised at the betrayal by his secular and anti-BJP friends , Yashwant Sinha has decided not to re-join the Trinmool Congress and to bid a final goodbye to politics. Before running for the presidential office, Sinha was the national vice president of the TMC. More than his defeat, he is disillusioned with the nonconformist attitude of the leaders of the parties in opposition who vow to fight the rightist ideology and policies of the BJP.

Coming together of the parties in opposition had aroused the hope of emergence of a united opposition forum. But parties like TMC, JMM, and Shiv Sena deserting the opposition rank and voting for NDA candidate Draupadi Murmu not only shattered the expectation but even questioned the ideological and political commitment of these parties. It would not be illogical to say that in the prevalent political situation there does not exist an expressive Opposition. On the name of opposition some regional groupings have been active in the political arena. These groupings are merely conglomerates of some individuals who want to share power.

If Modi is blamed for not adhering to the democratic principles and ethics, the fact remains that the parties in opposition who aspire to identify themselves as united opposition are also not pursuing the principles of democratic ethics and practices. Had it been the reality then Modi must not have dared to trample the democratic institutions and deny the people of this great democratic country their fundamental rights to live and survive in an honourable and peaceful manner. It would not be an exaggeration to say that democratic norms and ethics have become alien in India. Mamata Banerjee, the chief of the Trinmool Congress had taken the initiative to bring the parties in opposition to the table and decide the name of their candidate for the presidential election. They ultimately chose Yashwant Sinha. But the most ironical development was it was Mamata again who without consulting other parties withdrew her support to Sinha and backed Modi’s candidate Draupadi Murmu.

Yashwant Sinha has been an excellent candidate with proven credentials. But in the polarised political scenario, he was dropped like a hot cake by some of the opposition parties, including Mamata. For her, he was not the right candidate to promote her political interest. Following in her footsteps some other opposition leaders, on a similar plea to protect their tribal support, voted against Sinha. Mamata in the true sense contributed huge support in the terms of voting strength to Murmu. Here lies the folly of the entire opposition.

In the age of identity politics, Murmu’s victory had a political message, efforts of BJP and parties like TMC, JMM and Shiv Sena to connect with the tribal community but in real sense, this was purely an act of surrender to the dictates of Modi. Ever since Modi has taken charge of the BJP, and occupied the throne of the prime minister, he has been consistently trying to spread its wings and finish the parties in opposition.

Obviously, the leadership of the Congress, NCP, and other parties were feeling let down at the conduct of Mamata as she had led the desertion in the rank of the opposition. The presidential election has changed the scenario in opposition politics. The atmosphere has been overtaken by a sense of disbelief and betrayal. The same opposition which has been quite ebullient and confident of Sinha’s performance is now drowned in the quagmire of desperation and frustration.

What has been most shocking is a large number of the legislators and MPs belonging to the opposition rank disobeying the party whips and cross-voting for Murmu. It is yet to become clear that the MLAs and MPs who voted for Murmu had any tacit support of their leaders. People of India nurse wrong notions that there exists opposition. Had it been the reality then Modi must not have dared to trample the democratic institutions and deny the people their fundamental rights to live and survive. The parties in opposition who aspire to identify themselves as united opposition are also not pursuing the principles of democratic ethics and practices.

No doubt West Bengal has a sizable population of Santhal tribes to which Droupadi Murmu belongs. The tribals have a political impact in five Lok Sabha seats and around 35 Assembly constituencies. Additionally, around 80 percent of Bengal’s tribal population belongs to the Santhal tribe. Mamata might have nursed the notion that if she does not support Murmu, the tribal community would desert her. But this is nothing but a reflection of hegemonic politics. The tribals had voted for BJP in 2019 election alleging that corruption was becoming endemic. But instead of attacking corruption and leaders who indulged in corrupt practices, she preferred to dump Sinha, which was nothing but purely a populist machination.

Yashwant Sinha has been an excellent candidate with proven credentials. But in the changed and polarised political scenario, he was dropped like a hot cake. Mamata realised that he was not the right candidate to promote her political interest. Following in her footstep some other opposition leaders, on the similar plea to protect their tribal support, voted against Sinha. In the age of identity politics, supporting Murmu has become a political compulsion. Ironically they did not comprehend that they were stepping into a trap.

Obviously, the leadership of the Congress, NCP, and other parties were feeling let down at the conduct of Mamata as she had led the desertion in the rank of the opposition. The presidential election has changed the political scenario. It has been overtaken by the sense of disbelief and betrayal. The scenario has further turned gloomy with Mamata Banerjee announcing that she would not support the opposition’s vice presidential candidate Margaret Alva. Her party would abstain from voting in the VP election. She has taken this decision as leaders of other parties in opposition did not take her into confidence.

Though Alva has described her decision as "disappointing" and said this was not the time for "whataboutery, ego or anger", it cannot be denied that it is she who is responsible for the creation of this situation. How could she expect that the opposition leaders who she deserted in the presidential election, would seek her opinion? In spite of enjoying the support of Modi and the BJP leaders, Murmu could not perform a miracle and her vote share and victory margin were the third lowest in the history of the presidential election.

Mamata’s decision, which was made public by her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, overshadowed her own anti-BJP tirade at the July 21 mega-rally, on martyr day. There is no denying the fact that once the rising star of the east has lost much of her shine. The announcement has drawn flakes from the Left and the Congress who alleged a secret entente between the BJP and Trinamul. It is also being alleged that in order to protect her kingdom she had decided to abstain.

It is an open secret that as long as Jagdeep Dhankhar was the governor of Bengal, he behaved in a one-sided manner and was biased towards the TMC. The opposition parties allege by supporting him Mamata ensured that she can rule without any hindrance. Nevertheless her nephew Abhishek Banerjee put the blame on other opposition parties for Mamata’s decision to abstain. He said; “The way the name of Margaret Alva, the Opposition candidate, was decided, Trinamul feels the decision was not democratic…. More so, given how we -– despite having a total strength of 35 members in both Houses of Parliament -– were not consulted before the announcement”.

This action of Mamata also provides enough indication that she is not at all interested in bringing the parties in opposition on a single platform and building opposition unity. What is worse in a tacit manner they intend to put the blame for her shift in attitude during the presidential election on Sharad Pawar by saying that towards the end of the presidential poll meeting, Sharad Pawar did not allow her to speak.

In a very shocking derision, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said; “Mamata has become a Dalal (broker) of the BJP. By abstaining from voting, TMC is helping Dhankar as a candidate? This pact has taken place in Darjeeling where on one side Himanta Biswa Sarma was present, Mamata was there on another side and Dhankar was in between. So you can understand". Even CPI(M) reciprocated a similar view; “Everything was decided in the Darjeeling meeting so this is all drama". Dhankhar’s elevation as Vice President of India will move him out of Bengal to Delhi, and for Mamata Banerjee, that is a huge win.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) state secretary and former Lok Sabha member MD Salim has alleged behind-the-scene understanding between Mamata Banerjee and the BJP as the reason for the TMC decision to abstain from voting for Opposition candidate Margaret Alva in the vice-presidential election on August 6. He said it was a blow to Opposition unity.

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