Mamata's opposition to Bharat bandh a snub to Rahul Gandhi?

Bandh called by Congress is a complete failure in West Bengal, despite left support

Uneasy truce: Mamata Banerjee meeting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi at 10 Janpath in New Delhi | PTI

The dawn-to-dusk bandh called by the Congress party has become a complete failure in West Bengal, despite full support from the left front. While TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee identified with the concern of the opposition parties over rising fuel prices, she had said the TMC won't be supporting the Bharat bandh.

This is seen as Banerjee's indication of staunch opposition to Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate in the 2019 elections.

Life was normal in Kolkata as there was no violence anywhere as the two main parties—the ruling TMC and the principle opposition BJP—opposed the bandh. None of the offices—government or private—were closed and buses and other modes of public transport continued normal service on Monday. However, a few people remained in their houses aniticipating violence on the streets.

The West Bengal government had earlier issued notices to the government employees and those of aided institutes to come to office and not extend support to the bandh. 

CPI(M) politburo member Mohammad Salim had, however, other reasons to describe Mamata's opposition of Monday's bandh. "It's a clear and apparent alliance between Modi bhai and didi. Even if she talks against the BJP government in Delhi, ultimately her heart lies with the BJP," he said.

The bandh becoming a failure despite the Congress and the left coming together in Bengal proves the fact that both the parties have lost significant followers to the BJP in the state.

Rahul is yet to take any decision on the alliance in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury and other leaders like Somen Mitra have argued for the Congress to think of a short-term alliance with the Trinamool Congress. "But the way the Trinamool Congress has destroyed the Congress in Bengal could be a wake up call for the leadership in Delhi. Congress still has support base in Bengal, but we need to play some politics that we have forgotten to do," said Somen Mitra.

At the same time, there are others, including Malda's famous Khan Chowdhury family that has two MPs, who have voiced their support in favour of an alliance with the Trinamool Congress to check the BJP. Sources said Mamata is using Khan Chowdhury family to send a clear signal to Rahul Gandhi. Her opposition to the bandh was seen as putting a huge pressure on the Congress high command to accept her superiority in Bengal.

However, her party refuted the charge that the party is trying to get closer to the BJP.

"We agree with the reasons of the bandh. But our leader has categorically said that in West Bengal, which suffered due to relentless bandhs and strikes for decades, there would be no more bandhs," said Sovondeb Chattopadhya, power minister, West Bengal.

Despite the minister's words, the Trinamool Congress workers were found to be hitting the streets to oppose the bandh all over Bengal. They prevented the Congress's efforts to block the road and even distributed sweets to private bus and taxi drivers who came out on the streets defying the bandh.