23rd May saw a unique swearing in ceremony in the history of Indian democracy. The party that lost deposits in more than 100 legislative seats saw its leader becoming the Chief Minister with the help of the second largest party, i.e. Congress, while the single largest party, the BJP, despite being narrowly short of the majority mark in the state of Karnataka, will now have to sit in opposition.
As HD Kumaraswamy Gowda took oath as the new Chief Minister of Karnataka, it was nothing less than a golden opportunity for the almost redundant opposition to flex their muscles and show their ‘unity’, however farcical it might be. Led by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, the opposition stood united for a sole ambition: preventing the BJP from coming to power, come what may.
Amidst rainfall, this unique swearing in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy had its own precious moments, from the royal bonding between Sonia Gandhi and the ex CM of UP Mayawati, to the camaraderie between the new entrants to the opposition league, including the likes of Andhra Pradesh CM, N. Chandrababu Naidu.
However, what may have gone unnoticed was the royal snub of a leader, who is touted to be one of the few credible faces that the opposition could put forward in their fight for the 2019 general elections. Yes, this person is none other than the current Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who was royally snubbed by almost the entire opposition, despite her self declared stance as one the main faces in the potential opposition to the BJP in 2019.
When Kumaraswamy took oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, the opposition bigwigs gathered for a group photograph. From Sonia Gandhi to the likes of Ajit Singh and Sitaram Yechury, the leaders held their hands up in the air as a sign of victory, while the only thing they actually achieved was the prevention of the deserved party, the BJP, from forming government in the state.
Despite being one of the front runners for the candidature of PM on behalf of the proposed National Front in 2019, Mamata Banerjee was surprisingly relegated to the sidelines, along with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. Even the likes of Andhra Pradesh CM Chandra Babu Naidu and Rashtriya Lok Dal President Chaudhary Ajit Singh got better coverage than her. This cold shoulder by the Congress speaks volumes, especially for a leader who has been trying to hard to forge an anti-BJP opposition comprised of ‘regional parties’.
From giving hooligans a free hand in Bengal, to preventing the law enforcers from cracking down on TMC sponsored election violence , there is nothing that Mamata Banerjee is not accused of. Yet, according to her, and many others in the liberal intelligentsia, democracy is in danger only when BJP is in power, with simple to absolute majority, depending upon the state they’re in.
Without dwelling too deep into her despotic rule in West Bengal, let’s understand what the current position of Mamata Banerjee is vis-a-vis national politics. Presently the Congress, with Rahul Gandhi at the helm of the affairs, has to choose between the devil and the deep sea, since continuing with Rahul as the leader would be anything but suicidal, while allowing any other politician to take over the reins would undermine their own authority, as they have done by granting Kumaraswamy the post of the Chief Minister of Karnataka. With an absolute authority over Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is one of the few politicians who can change the fortunes of the UPA alliance if given an upper hand.
However, with the swearing in ceremony of Kumaraswamy, two things became crystal clear. Congress might be down, but certainly not out, and they shall go for the 2019 elections with the Gandhi scion as their leaders. The other fact is that, despite having created a crafty alliance in Karnataka, Congress knows some of their allies inside out, including the Trinamool Congress, and would certainly not do something that would appear suicidal to their own aspirations for 2019.
Mamata Banerjee, apart from CM Kejriwal, had a real tough time during the entire ceremony. She earlier complained to HD Deve Gowda about the traffic arrangements, which compelled her to walk a short distance to the Vidhan Soudha. While Arvind Kejriwal suffered due to the same problem, he refused to divulge much about it.
But the swearing in ceremony exposed the entire drama. This video shows Mamata Banerjee purportedly complaining to Deve Gowda about the poor treatment she received during the ceremony. Not only has Congress rejuvenated itself for the 2019 elections, it has no room for closet alliances with unreliable allies, at least till the 2019 elections. As far as we know it, such a brazen insult won’t be taken lying down by Mamata Banerjee. But above all, this makes the 2019 elections even more contesting, with future pragmatic alliances and more betrayals certainly on the cards.