The decision of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, to pull out of the prime minister’s tour of Bangladesh is too significant a development to be dismissed and overlooked as just another tantrum by the mercurial, unpredictable and temperamental TMC leader.
It’s a serious matter raising questions which cannot be answered and analysed keeping in mind just the personality traits of any one individual.
It’s quite likely that all this is just posturing and Mamata may finally agree to join the PM’s delegation to Dhaka after some last-minute adjustments are made and some tweaking done in the proposed bilateral water treaty.
She may be just threatening to get what she wants.
It’s also not important whether Mamata’s point of view – ostensibly safeguarding the interests of her state and the people of West Bengal — is correct and justified.
It could well be. But that’s really not the central theme of this article. The big questions are different. For starters it’s a huge setback on the foreign policy front.
Considering that Dhaka is one of the few friends we are now left with in the region — thanks to the string of pearls policy being deployed with such masterly precision by Beijing — can Delhi really afford such a game of brinkmanship with a friendly neighbour.
The equation becomes all the more difficult when one tries and views the picture from the perspective of the prime minister of Bangladesh who has to constantly face the combined ire of hardline Islamist groups and political opposition at home for being favourably inclined towards Delhi.
The Mamata Banerjee tantrum follows the embarrassment Indian diplomats had to suffer when the “off-the-record” comments made by the Indian prime minister on some not so “friendly forces” in Bangladesh found their way to the front pages of the Bangladesh newspapers a few months ago. This was when Manmohan Singh had his then famous, now forgotten meeting with a group of Indian print editors.
The result was a lot of red faces all around. For all the bad press he routinely gets, SM Krishna deserves a gallantry award for still sticking to his schedule and visiting Bangladesh in the immediate aftermath of the PM’s gaffe and managing to keep a straight face through the trip!
Is it any wonder then that we are so short on friends. Why blame China and Pakistan for our woes. We find enough ways to shoot ourselves in the foot and more!
The damage is no less severe on the home turf.
Mamata is amongst the principal allies of UPA 2. Everyone and his uncle describes the TMC leader as a strong willed, unpredictable person. But can she really hold a gun on the head of the prime minister and the Government of India in this manner and be allowed to make a complete mockery of all established norms and institutional propriety.
So where does this all leave the already depleted authority of the prime minister and his government. With what face will he go to Dhaka without Mamata. And even if they do kiss and make up, damage would have been already done, both to his authority as also to the cause of India-Bangladesh friendship.
Someone should really tell Mamata where to draw a line. But who can really bell the cat and make her see reason. Perhaps nobody! If Mamata could not be tamed by the Marxists while she was in the Opposition, can someone make her see reason now when she is the undisputed Queen of West Bengal.
It’s a difficult one, but not impossible. It’s just as well she remained the way she is while in Opposition because without that zealot like streak she could never have defeated the Comrades.
Now it’s time to mellow down!