File photo: Pranab Mukherjee meets Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee has sent President Pranab Mukherjee a raakhi
Most people will shake their heads and say - Politicians. You never really know which side they are on. Some will grin and say - Missed opportunity, Ms Banerjee. Had you sent that last year, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee might just have felt honour-bound to protect his "sister" from the big bad demon of debt.
The Sunday that saw Mr Mukherjee being elected President last month, seemed to bring with the victory, a thaw in Ms Banerjee's attitude to her fellow Bengal leader. In the over 7 lakh votes that he polled in his landslide win, were 50,000 odd votes of the Trinamool Congress. Mamata Banerjee said days before the Presidential elections that her party would vote for Mr Mukherjee after all, but that she was doing so reluctantly.
It hurt her to vote for Pranab Mukherjee, she declared emotionally, her party leaders flanking her protectively. It was clear that Ms Banerjee was not enjoying having to bow to political expediency.
But the day Mr Mukherjee won, Ms Banerjee reached out. She called to congratulate him and readily accepted an invitation to attend his oath-taking ceremony. Only a few days before that she had prominently skipped a meeting of UPA allies called to endorse Mr Mukherjee's name as the ruling coalition's candidate. She was also the only ally missing in the crush of top political leaders that accompanied Mr Mukherjee to Parliament House to file his nomination papers.
But there she was on oath-taking Wednesday, sitting among the invited few as Mr Mukherjee took oath as India's 13th President at a magnificent ceremony. She flew in on a private jet sent by the Congress and flew back the same day, the same way.
A few days later, Ms Banerjee made it clear that the thaw did not extend to Mr Mukherjee's former party, the Congress, which partners the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the state Ms Banerjee rules. The CM declared that she would contest all elections to come alone and not in partnership with the Congress.
The two leaders have never really been the best of friends, though every now and then they have been forced by politics to demonstrate warmth and bonhomie.
Their association goes back a long way - in fact, back to when Ms Banerjee was an eager Congress worker spotted for her zeal and single-minded ambition to oust the Left in West Bengal.
It's a tale of two very different Bengal leaders . Mr Mukherjee was the mentor of the man who mentored Ms Banerjee - Subrata Mukherjee. He has been known to have accepted in private that Mamata Banerjee was the only one in Bengal with mass appeal enough to snatch the state from the Left. She did. Mamata's aides insist that Mr Mukherjee - who, statesman as he has been, contested Lok Sabha elections only in the latter years of his political career - has been jealous of Mamata's ability to whistle up a mob in minutes.
In the run-up to Presidential elections, Congressmen in West Bengal said it was actually Ms Banerjee who was jealous that Mr Mukherjee, as President, would be the most important Bengali in the country. IANS quoted Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury.as saying about Ms Banerjee's reluctance to support Mr Mukherjee, "She thinks she is the only sun in West Bengal, and does not want anyone to occupy any important slot from the state. She thinks she will be eclipsed."
For Mamata Banerjee, after she took over a debt-ridden West Bengal last year, securing a central package that would waive interest on huge loans from the Centre for three years, has been a top agenda. She reportedly felt strongly about Mr Mukherjee, who was Finance Minister, not supporting her in that demand.
Has his becoming President brought a change? It certainly brought the raakhi