Blaming Pakistan before any investigation is not right, Mamata Banerjee suggested on February 16. But the West Bengal chief minister’s statements on the Pulwama attack have quickly been seized on by her opponents as evidence of “minority appeasement”.
It’s true Mamata is wary of the 28 per cent Muslim vote slipping away, but that threat comes from other quarters. With Rahul Gandhi emerging as a pan- India challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she worries that the minorities may not vote for her en bloc.
Over the past six years, Mamata has done her bit for this vote bank, with budget allocations for minority affairs and madrasa education going up eight-fold. The budget for 2019-20 saw a further increase of Rs 300 crore (to Rs 4,016 crore) with a push to bring madrasa students within the ambit of welfare schemes like Kanyashree (scholarship for girl students) and Sabooj Sathi (free cycles). This is in addition to the Rs 340 crore the minority affairs department is spending on scholarships for 3.8 million students.
Hostels for minority boys and girls, a third Haj House near the airport and other welfare measures are ways to ensure that this vote, which swung in her favour in 2011, stays with her.
The Ghost of Padmaavat Returns
Has Mamata Banerjee, who welcomed Padmaavat when the loony fringe was threatening a ban, now ordered a ‘pullout’ of her own? Bhobishyoter Bhoot (Ghost of the Future), a satire of life under the TMC, has been pulled out of theatres, with no reasons given. When director Anik Datta confronted theatre owners, they spoke mysteriously of “orders from above”; there was no written order. The state police and culture minister Indranil Sen have pleaded complete innocence.
Karnataka | Lady in Waiting
No party has been able to beat the BJP in the prestigious Bengaluru South Lok Sabha seat in the past 28 years. The late Ananth Kumar won from here a record six times. Not even Nandan Nilekani could unseat him (2014). Since the BJP stalwart’s death, the Congress has fancied its chances. It’s easier said than done, though. BJP sources say they have convinced Tejaswini, Kumar’s wife, to contest. Not many know that Tejaswini, who runs the popular Adamya Chetana NGO, had a big hand in Kumar’s victories, being well networked at the grassroots level.