How a painting brought Mamata Banerjee and Ram Nath Kovind closer

The West Bengal chief minister had vociferously opposed Kovind's candidature for the president's post.

 |  4-minute read |   07-12-2017
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From "Who Kovind?" to a philosopher and guide - President Ram Nath Kovind's CV now looks impressive to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. She is now so touched by the low-profile and the simple lifestyle of the president that she requested him to stay that way, never mind the trappings his post entails.

This was on November 28. Five months ago she was fuming over the candidature of the Bihar governor for virtually being a "non-entity" in political and public life. "The office of the president is a key post. Someone of the stature of Pranab Mukherjee or even Sushma Swaraj or LK Advaniji should have been made the candidate," said Banerjee, who cared two hoots for political correctness or propriety.

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"There are other big Dalit leaders in the country. Just because he was a leader of the BJP's Dalit Morcha they have made him the candidate," she said. As always, she was the loudest and most vocal cheerleader for Meira Kumar, the UPA and the Opposition's nominee, a well-known Dalit leader, for the post.

However, the quiet and "low-profile" Kovind sailed through comfortably.

Around this time, a fortnight ago Bengal witnessed a severe communal flare-up in Basirhat followed by a war of words between governor Keshri Nath Tripathi and Mamata Banerjee. The chief minister, her voice choking, alleged being insulted and threatened by Tripathi, who she felt was behaving like a BJP-block president. Tripathi, in turn, blamed Mamata for being biased in her dealings of raj dharma.

The clash between the two constitutional heads led people to speculate if the matter would finally reach the president's court.

Meanwhile, on July 20, Kovind took over as the president and there was tension in the air. While the political world wondered the possible impact on Mamata, she did not wait to eat her words. She was one of the first to send him congratulatory messages and one of the few, who called the president at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

On August 10, she went with a bouquet of yellow roses and invited Kovind to visit West Bengal.

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Such volte-face is neither unique nor uncommon in politics, but in case of Mamata, the somersault from bad to good, the transition from the two extremes is so sudden and so sharp that the result can be called a knee-jerk reaction. She not only made it up with Kovind but also nurtured the friendship by wishing him on his birthday, sending him sweets on Bijaya Dashami, the day to embrace one and all with hugs. Even while Mamata had been building bridges quietly, it was time for some public show.

"Since she had publicly denounced Kovind, it was time to honour him in the public domain. Mamata is a rare leader who doesn't fight shy of correcting herself if it ends in personal gain," said a senior Trinamool Congress leader. A huge civic reception was organised to honour the president in the state on November 28. Mamata presented Kovind a shawl, a dokra Durga idol and a huge painting made by her.

At the function, she gushed effusively about the president's low-profile and simplistic way of life. "I did not know that he had worked in the Rajya Sabha because of the low-profile he maintains. He always maintained a low profile. He had practised in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. He should direct us on the path of development," she said.

Forget and forgive if five months ago she said: "In order to support someone we must know the person. The candidate should be someone, who would be beneficial for the country."

Now Kovind is not just someone big and humble in her eyes but his "low-profile" has become worthy of praise.

The president, on the other hand, was touched by the warmth and sincerity in her voice. But what won his heart was a painting made by the chief minister. The painting will find a place in Rashtrapati Bhawan but it has already made a way to the president's heart.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: Babri Masjid demolition: 25 years on, Muslims in Ayodhya waiting for closure, if not justice

Writer

Romita Datta Romita Datta

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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