West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is desperate to prevent the BJP from making inroads in West Bengal but in the process she is displaying irrational behaviour. Her sending an eight-member delegation to Assam to whip up public sentiment against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) so that the NRC does not get down to identifying illegals in her state has angered those among the Assamese who view the identification of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants a blessing. That the delegation of legislators could well have disturbed law and order through incendiary speeches and fuelled communal discord is a grim reality and the Silchar administration did well to disallow them from going to the venue of an anti-NRC meeting.
Now for Mamata to call the ‘detention’ of the delegation members as a ‘super emergency’ while alleging that they were manhandled is a theatrical performance which she is perfectly capable of.That one member of the TMC delegation alleged he was hit on the chest and some others said their cellphones were snatched while others had other tales to tell was nerve-racking but one cannot put it past TMC members to exaggerate their plight at the Silchar airport taking a cue from their chief minister. But in the process they have created an Assam-West Bengal divide which could have dangerous consequences. That the Trinamool Congress chief in Assam and two other TMC leaders there have quit the party is an index of deep-rooted resentment over a measure that a substantial section of people were waiting for right since the signing of the Assam accord in 1985 which marked the end of an agitation against illegal immigrants. The main grouses against the immigrants from Bangladesh were that they had taken away jobs that should have rightfully been of the locals and played havoc with law and order. Mamata Banerjee is indeed playing with fire. She must stay out of such disastrous brinkmanship.