- Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee campaigned separately in the same district
- At Begal rally, Mr Gandhi attacked PM Modi more than Ms Banerjee
- Mamata Banerjee didn't attack Rahul Gandhi at her rally on Tuesday
Telengana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's meeting with his Kerala counterpart may have had an impact in distant Purulia in West Bengal. Campaigning in the same district, Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee tiptoed around each other on Tuesday, unlike in the past. K Chandrashekar Rao aka KCR, is now first mover in getting a federal front together and no one, certainly not the Congress, can ignore it.
So is a greater opposition consolidation against the BJP in the making?
Both Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee are under relentless attack by the BJP. Both know the race to May 23 (when results will be declared), is in the final laps. So are the Congress president and the Bengal Chief Minister about to bury the hatchet?
Rahul Gandhi certainly seemed to be offering a truce. Speaking at Purulia, he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but mentioned Mamata Banerjee maybe twice, versus 20 Modi mentions, and almost as an afterthought.
"Modi had promised 15 lakh to everyone. Has anyone here got that money? Surely someone should have. Has Modi or Mamata given anyone a job? Has Modi got fair price for farmers? Has Mamata?" That was the sum and substance of Rahul Gandhi's attack on Mamata Banerjee, very different from six week ago.
On March 23 in Malda, Rahul Gandhi attacked Mamata Banerjee for failing the jobless and the farmers, for violence against his party workers and over her allegedly autocratic ways. He spoke of her in the same breath as PM Modi.
"Have Mamata or Modi given jobs to anyone here? No one. What has Mamataji done for development here in the last few years? Jobs? Farmers? Narendra Modi lies. And the chief minister makes promises but doesn't deliver," Rahul Gandhi had said.
"She does what she likes in Bengal. She doesn't talk to anyone, doesn't listen to anyone. Congress party workers are thrashed here all the time," he said, adding, "Don't worry, don't retreat. We will form the government in Delhi and then we shall see what happens."
Mamata Banerjee had made no secret of her outrage at Rahul Gandhi's Malda attack, responding with disparaging comments about how he was a "bachcha chhele" or "young lad." On Tuesday, though she was campaigning not far from where he was in Purulia, she did not attack the Congress at all. Her focus was instead on BJP president Amit Shah and PM Modi.
On Monday, PM Modi had attacked Mamata Banerjee at his rally at Tamluk in Bengal with a no-holds barred jibe on extortion, allegedly, by her party.
"Triple T Tax. Every child in Bengal knows about it. The Trinamool Tolabaji Tax. Whether for school admissions or for teaching jobs, we are told everywhere people have to pay Triple Tolabaji Tax," PM Modi had said.
On Tuesday, the Chief Minister physically demonstrated what she would like to do to him for that slight. Swinging her right arm in an arc, she said, "I don't care for money. So when he comes to Bengal and calls the Trinamool a Tolabaji party, I feel like giving him a tight slap of democracy."
The BJP's attack has been an unrelenting, multipronged one. Also on Tuesday, Amit Shah attacked Mamata Banerjee on her avowed allergy to the 'Jai Shri Ram' slogan. On Sunday, she had chided people who had shouted that slogan as her car went past in a town in West Midnapore district.
"Didi is throwing people who shout Jai Shri Ram in jail. Where will we shout Jai Shri Ram except in Bharat? Will you shout Jai Shri Ram in Pakistan?" Amit Shah said.
Mamata Banerjee retorted, "If you think I have to shout the same slogan as you, forget it. In Bengal, we will do our own thing. I will accept all gods in India, all cultures. The BJP slogan will never pass my lips till my death. Our slogan is Jai Hind, Vande Mataram, Ma Mati Manush Zindabad, we say Jai Ma Durga, asche bochhor abar hobay (Jai Durga, until next year). In Ganesh puja, we will shout Ganapati Bappa Mourya, but we will not shout your slogans or start riots," she said.
As Mamata Banerjee's voice against BJP rises, is it growing muted on Congress? Has the KCR-Pinarayi Vijayan meet on a reported federal front plan prompted Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi to tone down on mutual attacks?
KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samiti is one of six that want to be seen as equidistant from the BJP and the Congress. The others are Naveen Patnaik's BJD, Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool. This bloc could have a formidable 100 plus seats on 23 May, impossible to ignore.