West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee will raise the issue of pending dues from the Centre with PM Narendra Modi, something that has only been discussed at the ministerial-level so far. (Getty Images/File)
Sources told News18 that the Bengal unit of the BJP is anxious that any meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee months before Lok Sabha elections could send a “wrong message” and potentially “damage cadre morale” in a state that accounts for 42 seats in the Lower House
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s visit to New Delhi and a near certain meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday has the Bengal BJP worried. Sources told News18 that the saffron party’s state unit is anxious that any meeting between Modi and Mamata months before Lok Sabha elections could send a “wrong message” and potentially “damage cadre morale” in a state that accounts for 42 seats in the Lower House.
Banerjee is scheduled to meet Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs at 2:30pm on Monday where she is likely to brief them on the agenda of the meeting with PM Modi. Sources said she is likely to meet the Prime Minister with a delegation in Parliament on Wednesday morning.
The West Bengal CM will raise the issue of pending dues from the Centre with PM Modi, something that has only been discussed at the ministerial-level so far. The Centre maintains that alleged corruption in implementation of central schemes has resulted in the Narendra Modi government withholding the supply of funds in certain cases. One of the main schemes for which funds are pending is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The disbursal is dependent on the Centre’s satisfaction with the transparency of the scheme’s implementation, Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh had said earlier.
While this context of perceived animosity between the two leaders serves the Bengal BJP well, many of its senior leaders are concerned at prospects like the Centre deciding to release the funds or even a photo-op where PM Modi and Mamata Banerjee are seen to be “friendly”.
“This would shatter the morale of the cadre who are fighting a tough battle on the ground, keeping the corruption potboiler warm,” said a BJP MP on condition of anonymity.
The MP cited an instance from 2022 when Mamata Banerjee de-hyphenated BJP and PM Modi. Speaking on a resolution in the Bengal Assembly against the alleged “excesses” of the central probe agencies, she had called the Union government dictatorial, but distanced the Prime Minister from it. “CBI and ED are not under him. They are all under the Union Home Ministry. All this is being done by some BJP leaders,” Banerjee had famously said.
“The perception that trickled in was the two have resolved their differences. Our cadres were left disillusioned,” the BJP MP said.
The lawmaker cited another instance from last year when Banerjee surprisingly used softer words for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (RSS), BJP’s ideological mentor. “The RSS was not that bad. There are still people in the RSS who do not support the politics the BJP does,” she had said.
Another West Bengal-based senior BJP functionary, who is also a sitting MLA, told News18 that the state unit is “hoping” that the official photos of the meeting “don’t communicate any wrong message”. He recalled a photo from December 5 last year when the Centre called an all-party meeting over the G20 Summit. A photo of PM Modi and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury — both laughing and shaking hands – went viral.
“While it may be quite normal for any statesman to extend courtesy to his political opponent, its political effect on the ground is a different story altogether. Many Left voters who switched to the BJP in 2019 were approached by TMC after the photo,” he said.
For the proposed meeting on Wednesday, Banerjee is likely to be accompanied by a small group of TMC MPs as well, including her nephew and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee. She will also join the meeting of the INDIA bloc on Tuesday afternoon at Delhi’s Ashoka Hotel, less than 24 hours before she meets the Prime Minister.