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West Bengal chief minister Mamata Benarjee has proved herself an astute and shrewd politician. Delhi had agreed to amicably share the Teesta water during the dry season and an agreement was ready to be signed in September 2011 when Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka. But the deal was scuttled by Mamata by refusing to accompany Dr Singh who had hoped to sign the agreement. Mamata was unwilling to compromise the interests of her state, claims her party Trinamul Congress.
Delhi recognizes the importance of Teesta agreement for the relationship with Bangladesh. Failure to reach an agreement as promised is likely to further rise of mistrust and create impediments in meaningful cooperation between the two countries.
Mamata’s shrewd deal
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 6-7 visit to Dhaka is understandably aimed at removing the misgivings created in the past. He wished the Teesta agreement but determined not to repeat the fiasco of 2011 when Mamata Banerjee pulled out of the trip to Dhaka with Dr Manmohan Singh. BJP government is known to have worked to bring Mamata on board with Narendra Modi and reach the Teesta deal. Mamata was offered substantial financial assistance for developing infrastructure for expansion of the irrigation facilities. But she wants 80 per cent of dry season flow of the river leaving barely 20 per cent for Bangladesh.
Not to speak of Teesta deal. This time Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced obstacle from Mamata Banerjee in adopting the Constitution Amendment Bill on India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement. The Bill could not get through the Rajya Sava without the support of her party Trinamul Congress. Initially she was reluctant to support the Bill.
But finally Modi own over her. “Just how has been the biggest “political mystery over the past week,” wrote Times of India. “It turns out that a compensation package of Rs.3,009 crore in the India-Bangladesh enclave exchange pact helped Modi take Didi on board during his recent Kolkata visit.”
Mamata changed her stance only after extracting a significant compensation for rehabilitation of those who will be displaced from 111 enclaves along the West Bengal border on implementation of the land boundary agreement. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj gave an assurance on the package in Parliament last week, paving the way for the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement, which would have fallen through in the Rajya Sava without Trinamool’s support.
The centre has fixed the upper ceiling of the compensation at Rs 3,009 crore with the minimum being Rs 775 crore.
TMC’s no to Teesta deal
The money will come under two heads - fixed and variable. The variable part has been estimated at Rs 2,234 crore, depending on the actual transfer of population. The reason, a foreign ministry official explained, is that the people of these enclaves have the right to decide if they are willing to come over to India.
Despite adequate compensation package Mamata Banerjee will not accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his Dhaka visit. According to her programme, she will reach Dhaka in the evening of June 5, a day head of the Prime Minister and return to Calcutta on June 6 evening to ensure that she does not get sucked into any interaction on the thorny Teesta water issue. She will attend the signing ceremony of the land boundary agreement and skip all other programmes of Modi to return home.
Mamata told reporters in Calcutta “I’m going there (Dhaka) to be part of the signing of the historic Land Boundary Agreement which was lying pending for many years. I would have nothing to do with the thorny Teesta water sharing. I’ve checked that Teesta is not in the agenda.”
Trinamul Congress leaders said Mamata was cautious in visiting Dhaka. She made her own programme and avoided accompanying Modi. She has her view on the West Bengal state election due next year. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are riding on Hinduvata plank annoying secular forces and minority Muslims. She does not want the voters to misunderstand her. Maintaining distance from BJP she has been gaining ground from the Congress. Secondly, Teesta water is a sensitive issue in north Bengal where the people were getting maximum benefits from the irrigation projects.