Atal Bihari Vajpayee was then the country’s Prime Minister. Ajit Jogi, the then Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, came to meet him in New Delhi. It was a prior appointment. Just ahead of the meeting, Ajit Jogi said to State Minister Vijay Goel at the PM’s office: “I am not alone. Seven-eight lawmakers have also come. They too want to meet the Premier.” Vijay Goel got angered. He said: “This is unusual. You have come to meet the country’s Prime Minister. There is a protocol. Security matters the most. It requires clearance from the Special Protection Group (SPG), who oversees the PM’s welfare. Then Ajit Jogi replied: “Well, if you don’t permit us to see the Premier, then we won’t do that. We shall stage a sit-in in front of the PM’s room for an indefinite period.” This had annoyed and infuriated Vijay Goel much more. Then, Shakti Sinha was the Personal Secretary to the PM. Along with him, Vijay went to the PM. What sort of etiquette is it? Is it the tradition of the country’s union structure? The Prime Minister is being dishonoured. With a mild smile, Vajpayee said: "Let them come. It will not make that difference if 10 more people come. It is improper to make a trifling matter a major issue.” Afterwards, they met him. Political conflict did not become an issue. But, today?
Now, all of us are corona-inflicted. We are passing through a devastating period. We are accustomed to watching the procession of deaths. In this situation, no conflict over Paschimbanga is desirable. Any conflict between Modi and Mamata is undesirable.At Kulaikunda, Mamata’s meeting with the PM triggered a countrywide furore. The principal secretary of Paschimbanga, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, fell a victim to the incident. He is not only an honest and devoted officer but also a talented student, successful journalist, writer and bureaucrat. During his long career, none dared to raise finger of allegation at him. No allegation of corruption was brought against him. Despite the fact, we watched the incidents that affected him.
The incident around Alapan Bandyopadhyay will once be a matter of the past. But, if we think it to be an end to the centre-state conflict, then it will be wrong. The political conflict between the BJP and the Trinamool is at its peak. Administration and politics are two different branches. Bureaucracy is involved with administration. The Chief Minister is the Chief Minister of the state, while the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of the country. The Prime Minister is also the Prime Minister of Paschimbanga. So, watching the pitiable condition, it time and again appeared in my mind as to why we are unable to get rid of the hangover of the election-time political rivalry of Modi and Mamata?
Today, a private meeting between Modi and Mamata is most essential. At the meeting, hopefully there will be no egoism. The State Minister will pay due honour to the PM and the PM will pay due respect to the State Minister. Remembering polls-time war of words, it is not possible to run the country. We must move forward forgetting the politics that was pursued till announcement of polls results. The quality of forgiving by a strong person is praiseworthy. The power of forgiving restrains people from the path of conflict. In religion, forgiveness is essential.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the country's most influential political personality. During the corona pandemic period, his popularity came down by 20-25 per cent. This has been known from a few studies conducted by the US and the Indian agencies. It has been acknowledged by all. But, at the moment, it is also true that there is no political substitute to Modi in all-India perspective. We are watching the condition of the Congress, the country’s main opposition. It is still not clear whether Rahul Gandhi exists in politics or not. It is still unclear whether he holds the party presidentship or not. And, it seems the Gandhi family is not ready to clarify this.
What about forging a unity of the opposition in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha polls? It is now a big question. In the history of India, the past record of coalition government is not that encouraging till now. Of course, despite being a coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of Manmohan Singh lasted for 10 years. But, during the period, the coalition partners withdrew their support occasionally. We watched how corruption engulfed the entire government machinery due to lack of morality. And, because of this reason, there emerged a great influential political power like Narendra Modi. If some people think that Mamata, who scored a landslide victory in Paschimbanga polls by capturing 200 seats, would immediately rush to Delhi to oust Narendra Modi from the centre then I think they are doing injustice to her. Mamata’s political wisdom is not so poor. In this regard, a panic in the BJP is noticeable. At the moment, combating Covid-19 is the greatest challenge before Mamata. It is her duty to refute the allegations of political vengeance and consolidate her political authority in Paschimbanga. Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister, but he never scrambled by rushing to Delhi. His success as the Chief Minister of Gujarat consolidated his position on the soil of Gujarat. Depending on that power, he made a way to Delhi. We should not forget another point which is that a strong party like the BJP was behind Narendra Modi. Mamata is giving priority to Paschimbanga. That day, in a press briefing, she said that her first and last priority is Bengal. She can do everything for Bengal. For that, she can even hold the leg of the PM. Today, when Mamata is telling so then the Prime Minister’s nobility is much desirable.
Because of political rivalry, the institution is being decayed. It is true that there are some people on both sides who do not want an end to conflict. They do not want an understanding. But, today this understanding is very essential for development of the state.I still remember that Jyoti Basu once termed the government as barbarous after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ascension to power. He decided not to meet the PM. And, it was for a long time, no meeting was held between them. Mamata was a partner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). She was the Minister for Railways. She was busy in waging a war against the Communist Party of India (Marxist). At that time, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee played a major role in changing Jyoti Basu's stance. He brought Basu to Lal Krishna Advani in Delhi. Jyoti Babu introduced Buddhadeb Babu to him. I was present there. While introducing Buddhadeb Babu, Jyoti Babu said: "Buddha is going to be the Deputy Chief Minister. As a Deputy Chief Minister, Buddha will regularly maintain liaison with you." Later, Advani arranged a meeting between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jyoti Babu. And, Jyoti Babu sat in a meeting with Vajpayee. When VP Singh became the Prime Minister then both the leftists and the BJP lent support to him. I heard from Lal Krishna Advani about a meeting among Jyoti Babu, Vajpayee and himself. And, Jyoti Babu requested to keep it secret apprehending that it might carry a wrong message to the state. Advani used to tell time and again that in politics, they are not used to believe in untouchability. "We may differ in political ideology, but our party does not nourish the notion of avoiding someone or, keeping secret anything." That was a problem with the Communist Party which was later solved by Buddhadeb Babu.
Today, I remember the events after so many years. Because, as a well-wisher of Paschimbanga, I think the future of Bengal depends on a cordial centre-state relationship. In centre, there should be at least some ministers who would maintain close ties with the states. It is the viewpoint of our basic political theory.
Today, we pass through coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters. At this period, it is of utmost necessity to keep intact the structure of Indian union and show mutual respect to each other for the sake of development. During such a disastrous situation, the two sides should cool down for creating an atmosphere for discussion. That will be for public interest!
The writer is a senior journalist of India
Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman