Modi Reaches Out to Mamata

New Delhi: In an effort to ensure political differences between the BJP and regional parties do not come in the way of effective cooperation between the Centre and the states on development projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called for the central and state governments to work together as  “Team India” in order to solve national problems. Modi said that if the Centre and states can work together, they could solve domestic issues the way they came together to address the Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement. “Team India is the Centre and states working together. If there is ‘Team India’, then we can solve international issues and internal ones very easily”, he said, while inaugurating the modernized IISCO Steel Plant in Burnpur, West Bengal. Only the previous day, Modi had a one-on-one meeting with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata, and the two decided to work together in a spirit of cooperation.

The Prime Minister’s visit to West Bengal signals a pragmatic shift in the BJP and NDA’s strategy towards other regional leaders. One year into power, the NDA is under pressure to execute national development projects, which require the support of many states. Earlier, the BJP had adopted an aggressive attitude towards regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Samajwadi Party. In all of the states where these parties are in power, the BJP feels it is in a position to do well electorally. Relations between the TMC and the BJP turned bitter after Modi won the national elections in May 2014. The BJP, which turned in its best ever electoral performance in the state, believed it could actually come to power there. Party president Amit Shah visited West Bengal last year and spoke of uprooting the TMC from the state. With Mamata sweeping the recent municipal polls, that claim seems increasingly unrealistic.

On Saturday, Modi reached out personally to Mamata Banerjee and announced three social welfare schemes on a day that marked the 155th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. In recent months, the PM has reached out to Akhilesh Yadav as well as Nitish Kumar to enhance cooperation between the Centre and States on development projects. This has become critical as the economic performance of the Modi government effectively hinges on efficient execution of many of its initiatives at the state level.