The letter released by the Congress after the suspension of 12 MPs in Rajya Sabha reflects the confusion within the party.
While it protested the suspension of 12 MPs, which also included those with TMC, the signatories did not include anyone from the Mamata Banerjee-led party. It’s clear that Congress wants to avoid any public display of support for the TMC and the reason is not that the Grand Old Party wants to go it alone; it’s because increasingly, it’s being pushed out of the opposition space by the TMC.
The TMC has a plan to take on the BJP and the Congress is not a part of it. The Congress, too, is now slowly getting used to the idea of being eased out of the opposition space.
At the opposition party meeting on the first day of Parliament, TMC refused to come. There were some tense moments when Shiv Sena, Congress’ ally in Maharashtra, also did not turn up for the meeting. Though the Sena played it down as being busy with prior appointments, the Congress is now looking at the meeting of Bannerjee with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
The Congress finds itself in this situation where it doesn’t know where its next support system may come from. There is some divide within the party on how to deal with the situation.
Mallikarjun Kharge is among those who feel that the Congress should be restrained and not attack the TMC yet. “We are here for a larger goal, which is to defeat the BJP. We all need to fight the battle together,” he said. But some like KC Venugopal and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury are of the view that the Trinamool can never be trusted. They are more upset with the fact that Abhishek Banerjee openly attacks Rahul Gandhi.
The party now feels the TMC is like a hungry tiger and would only keep harming the Congress and eating into its space. Hence, they have begun to call the TMC the B Team of BJP. The TMC has hit back, saying “We proved ourselves during Bengal polls. The Congress’s weak response is a sign they don’t want to take any risk as they have many skeletons in their cupboard.”
The Congress is aware of the larger plan; that between AAP and TMC ambitions, there may be little space left for it. The AAP is working hard in Punjab to ensure that the Congress is defeated. In Uttarakhand too, AAP wants to take the space of the Congress and ease it out of a state where it is hopeful of a win.
As news of Prashant Kishor meeting senior Congress leaders of Karnataka came in, a shiver went down Congress’s spine, confirming its worst fears that the TMC and AAP won’t let the Grand Old Party grow.
So, what’s the Congress’s game plan? First, to speak up for other opposition parties like NCP, Shiv Sena and DMK to ensure an axis of friendly allies is formed. It hopes this would be a ‘kavach’ to protect itself from the TMC and AAP spread. Congress has now planned to hit the streets even more with the Gandhis taking the lead. In Parliament too, Congress wants to be loud and magnanimous. It hopes to win friends and project the TMC as a party which cannot be trusted. Congress hopes to stem the push for both a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and a ‘Congress-mukt Opposition’ as well.