By Subir Bhaumik/www.southasianmonitor.com
Kolkata ,March 11: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insiders have indicated that with the crucial Uttar Pradesh State Assembly elections out of the way, and the BJP victorious in two key states including UP, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to work on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to get her go-ahead for sealing deals on Teesta water sharing and Ganges Barrage with Bangladesh.
Indian water experts and officials of its water resources ministry have already cleared the proposed agreements on both these issues, despite objections by the West Bengal government.
BJP leaders say Modi values Bangladesh’s friendship and is keen to seal these deals.
“Since he has criticized his predecessor Manmohan Singh for chickening out of tough decisions, it is time for him to prove he is different,” says Bangladesh-watcher Sukharanjan Dasgupta.
Dasgupta says his sources in the BJP have also indicated that Modi will now push Mamata hard on the waters issue.
“He may make one last effort to convince her to fulfill India’s sovereign commitment to a friendly neighbor, but if that does not happen, he may even consider going ahead on his own,” Dasgupta said.
BJP’s former West Bengal President and now Tripura State Governor Tathagata Ray has already strongly pitched for “respecting Bangladesh’s rights as a lower riparian country.”
Other BJP leaders dealing with West Bengal — Kailash Vijayvargia and Siddhartha Nath Singh — are all for a hard-line stance against the Mamata government.
The RSS leaders also want Modi to act tough with Mamata because they see her “in cahoots with Islamist radicals.”
Those in the party who were apprehensive of the adverse impact of demonetization are now praising Modi for his ability to take calculated risks and hard sell controversial moves to the people.
For a Prime Minister ever keen to use foreign policy moves for domestic purposes, it may now well be a case of reverse — use a major poll victory to push through a foreign policy issue stalemated by a powerful regional satrap.
Those who know Mamata well say she is a smart tactician and a survivor.
“After the UP polls, she will surely anticipate ever greater pressure from the Centre. That may lead her to consider a climb down on pending issues with Bangladesh,” says analyst Ashis Biswas.
“She may actually do a volte-face to be able to take credit for these deals.”
Leaving aside speculations on what Mamata will do — and her moves are never easy to predict — it appears evident, Modi will have enough firepower to push Mamata on these water sharing deals.
But Dhaka seems to be keen to carry both Mamata and Modi along on these deals.
“Bangladesh will not like to upset anybody in India in going ahead with these deals. We want to be friendly to all in India,” said former Foreign Secretary Farooq Sobhan.
Sobhan was all for another effort to get Mamata to back these water deals.
(The featured image at the top shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina)