The fiery West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee (66), on Wednesday made it clear, just before she called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi, that she is not at all interested in leading the opposition parties, but is here to unite them in a "BJP vs Rest" formulation, to get rid of Prime Minister Modi before he inflicts more damage on the nation.
Sonia Gandhi (74) had son Rahul (51) by her side during talks with Mamata at her 10 Janpath residence, dropping enough hints that she has already given the responsibility to Rahul to unite the opposition parties and pointed out how Rahul took lead in mobilising leaders of various parties in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha only on Wednesday.
"It was a very good meeting, positive meeting. To defeat the BJP, everybody needs to come together. Everyone will have to work together," Banerjee said after a 45-minute interaction with Sonia Gandhi, with whom she has always had cordial ties.
Mamata is in Delhi until Saturday, but she dropped a hint that the united opposition front may take time to shape up.
"After Parliament session, there will be talks, there should be a common platform to work together," she said, stressing that she has good relations with most chief ministers, including Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Stalin of Tamil Nadu. "I spoke to Lalu Prasad on Tuesday. We will be talking to all parties," she said. Her second important meeting of the day is with Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal.
Asked earlier in the day after her meeting with party's MPs if she would be the face of the opposition to take on the BJP in the 2024 Parliamentary elections, she shot back: ‘‘I am not a political astrologer. It depends on the situation, structure. I have no problem if someone else leads. When the matter is discussed, we can decide. I cannot impose. My mission right now is to help all the opposition parties to bell the cat. I don’t want to be a leader, but a simple cadre, contribute as an humble worker.”
She, however, has a fervent desire to return to national politics, but was clever in stating that she has "no problem if someone else leads."
Since her hat-trick Bengal victory, Mamata has emerged as a pivotal figure in the opposition's attempts to unite to take on the BJP in the next general election. Her determination is reflected in an assertion during a talk with the reporters that "Poore desh me khela hoga. It's a continuous process...When general elections come (2024), it will be (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi vs the country."
When told that the Congress, the grand old party, is a weak link in the chain, she quipped: "I don't want to interfere in the internal math of any political party. But I think Sonia Gandhi wants opposition unity." She had earlier said that any grouping of the opposition parties would be impossible without the Congress. Poll planner Prashant Kishor, who managed Mamata's successful campaign, had recently spoken to all three Gandhis, Rahul and Priyanka in person and Sonia over phone from Rahul's residence.
Mamata was very blunt on Modi. "Narendra Modi was popular in 2019. Today, they have not kept a record of the bodies (victims of COVID-19), last rites were denied, and bodies were thrown in river Ganga. Those who lost their loved ones will not forget and forgive."
Targeting PM Modi's signature tune of 'achhe din' (good days), she said, "We want to see 'sacche din' (truthful days), we have seen enough of 'achhe din' (good days)."
She made a courtesy call on Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday after landing in Delhi. On the Pegasus row, she said the situation was more serious than the Emergency. Her decision to skip the opposition meeting in Parliament on Pegasus and instead holda meeting of party MPs at the same time surprised many since her TMC has been in the forefront giving notices for a discussion in Parliament on Pegasus and actively participating in the daily protests since the monsoon session began on July 19.
Interestingly, Mamata said not a word on her Twitter handle about her meeting with Sonia, nor did the Congress or Rahul tweet on the meeting she had at 10 Janpath.
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