On the day (March 1) the leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal was holding a joint Press conference with the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a video clip was in circulation in which the chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owaisi can be heard stating as to how the priest of Furfurashareef, Abbas Siddiqui, let him down.
While Tejashwi had no hesitation whatsoever in lending support to the Trinamool Congress without demanding any seat in return as Mamata is fighting a battle against the common rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Owaisi has still not given up his plan to contest in West Bengal, even if his presence in the fray suits the saffron party.
Unlike the AIMIM, the RJD had contested Assembly election in West Bengal in the past. That was during the Left Front rule. Once one of its candidates even got elected to the West Bengal Assembly.
Tejashwi’s offer came even though there is a sizeable Hindi-speaking electorate, mostly from Bihar living in West Bengal. He appealed to all these people to vote for Didi against the BJP, which is going all out to attract them to its side. Tejashwi may even campaign as he did in neighbouring Assam before coming to West Bengal.
What is interesting is that Tejashwi arrived in Kolkata from Assam on the eve of February 28 joint rally of the Congress and Left Front at the Brigade Parade Ground in the eastern metropolis. Abbas Siddiqui of the Indian Secular Front was also present on the occasion.
Tejashwi chose to skip that show though in Bihar he is very much in alliance with the Congress and Left parties. Even in Assam he appealed to the people to vote for the Mahajath and RJD is likely to join it. He clarified that the alliance in one state does not necessarily amount to alliance in another state and cited the example of the Left and Congress who are contesting against each other in Kerala.
Even Janata Dal-United contests election against BJP outside Bihar. It is planning to do so in Assam and West Bengal too.
Mamata, who also addressed the Press conference was grateful to the RJD leader.
Party insiders are of the view that Tejashwi went to meet the leaders of the Congress and All India United Democratic Front in Assam and Mamata in West Bengal at the instance of his father Lalu Prasad. What is interesting to point out is that Mamata, who succeeded Lalu Prasad as the railway minister in 2009, was very critical of the RJD chief then. But Lalu never chose to settle the score with her whenever she stood up against the BJP.
Curiously, on March 1 itself former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Singh Yadav announced unilateral support to Mamata, with whom he had a telephonic talk too. He too asked the people from the Hindi-speaking states living in West Bengal to exercise their franchise in favour of the Trinamool Congress.
Neither RJD nor the Samajwadi Party leader made it a point to expand the support base of their respective parties in pursuit for the recognition as a national party.
Contrary to them, Owaisi is still hovering over the poll-bound West Bengal even though in the recent past his party has received serious setbacks after several of its leaders and workers had crossed over to the Trinamool Congress.
Owaisi is still nursing political ambition even though there is a fear of split in the five member AIMIM legislative party in Bihar. It is on the basis of its performance in this state in the last November election that he is planning to jump into the West Bengal theatre. It was only recently that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, while speaking in the Assembly, openly told the leader of the AIMIM legislative party Akhtar-ul-Iman that he would soon be left alone. The message was loud and clear, that is the rest four legislators may soon join Nitish’s Janata Dal-United.
The contrast between the approach of Tejashwi and Owaisi is too clear to be observed.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views expressed are personal.