New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should feel at ease, as the ‘grand alliance’ in the making against him will not field any prime ministerial candidate. These Opposition parties have endorsed West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s stand that ‘‘let us win the elections first.’’
Of course, there will be a mad race if the ‘grand alliance’ succeeds, though Congress President Rahul Gandhi has ruled himself out unless the Congress wins 200 or more seats to make him the natural choice. If the Congress tally stops at 140 or 150, he will insist on someone else from among the allies to taking up the reins. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar (77), Mamata Banerjee (63) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati (62) will be the strong contenders for the top PM’s post, if the united Opposition succeeds in ousting Modi (67) from power.
During her 3-day visit to Delhi Mamata met Opposition leaders of all hues and set at rest the controversy over who is to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate. “Our first priority is to defeat the BJP. Then, we will sit and decide who should be the PM,” she quipped, when told by reporters that Congress President Rahul Gandhi will prefer her to lead the ‘grand alliance.’ She said the parties will decide the leadership issue only after the 2019 elections. Her line was quickly toed by the Congress and other parties as all agreed that the internal squabble may endanger the unity that the BJP so dearly wishes for, so that it is not drawn into a one-to-one fight with the Opposition.
Ahmed Patel and other senior Congress leaders, who met her ahead of her meeting later in the evening with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, told her not to go by the BJP’s propaganda that Rahul is itching to be the next prime Minister. They assured her that that the first Congress Working Committee meeting on July 22 had empowered him to negotiate with like-minded parties over a grand alliance and not to stake his own claim.
Mamata was also told that another CWC meeting called this Saturday would bring more clarity while deciding the programme to be launched across the country to expose the lies of Modi and his party. Mamata has herself given a call for the “Modi Hatao” campaign from August 15. Mamata was in the Parliament House on Wednesday for about two hours and met leaders of various parties, including Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani. Asked about her rendezvous with Advani despite her hatred towards the BJP, she said: “I know Advani Ji for a long time. I met him and asked him about his health.” She also called on former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda in the Karnataka Bhawan.
She had met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday to warn that a “civil war” will break out if over 40 lakh Indians living in Assam are denied the citizenship for not fulfilling the requirements of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She said: “I have urged Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha as well to send a team to Assam to check the reality of NRC.” When told that the Congress has disapproved of her “civil war” remark, Mamata shot back: “Assam is on the border of Bengal. It will affect us also. It is our neighbour. Will we not raise our voice if our neighbour is unhappy?”