Mumbai: After an hour-long meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar here on Wednesday, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has made it amply clear that she sees herself in pole position and expects others, including the Congress, to rally around her. She also indicated she was visualising a fresh opposition line-up for the general elections two years away. “What is UPA? There is no UPA,” she declared.
Mamata has thereby scripted the UPA obituary and reiterated her readiness to lead an opposition front with or without the Congress to take on the Modi-Shah duo and the BJP in general in the next general elections.
“There is an environment of fascism in the country today. A strong alternative is needed. Nobody can do it alone. Those who are strong should be taken together,” said Mamata.
On his part, Pawar said, “We discussed the prevailing situation and the need for all like-minded parties to come together and provide a strong alternative to the BJP. The question of who will be the leader doesn’t arise right now.” He clarified there was no question of excluding anyone (Congress) but to have like-minded parties band up against the BJP. “All those opposed to the BJP are welcome to join us. Our thinking is not for today, but for the election,” he added.
When questioned whether there would be an alternative excluding the Congress, Banerjee said, “What Sharadji said was that there should be a strong alternative of those who fight. What do we do if one is not fighting? We feel that everyone should fight.”
A senior NCP leader told The Free Press Journal, “At the meeting with Pawar and later, with all the NCP veterans and ministers, there was unanimity that the Congress should be part of the opposition front. However, there was a view that Congress should not lead such a front, as it might give Modi an upper hand in the run-up to the next general elections. Also discussed was the matter of regional parties joining hands and stepping up their fight against the Modi government for the misuse of Central probe agencies, jeopardising democracy and key institutions and propagating dictatorship while undermining Parliament.” He said it was also decided to corner the BJP on a range of issues including the farmers’ plight, the sale of assets of public-sector undertakings to some corporates and harming the federal structure.
The Congress, which is sharing power with Shiv Sena and NCP in Maharashtra, has strongly criticised Mamata, saying that the fight against the BJP should be fought unitedly, setting aside egos. The party’s state unit chief, Nana Patole, said the Congress was the only viable alternative to the BJP, adding that a political party restricted to one state could not be an alternative to BJP.
Interaction with celebs
Earlier, Mamata, in her interaction with celebrity citizens, had claimed that Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan had been victimised like many others, terming the BJP ‘cruel’ and ‘undemocratic’. “I know Mahesh Bhatt is victimised; Shah Rukh is victimised. There are many more. Some can open their mouths while some can’t,” she said.
“India loves manpower, not muscle power. Unity in diversity is our origin. Unfortunately, we are facing the cruel, undemocratic and unethical attitude of BJP,” she opined.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, lyricist Javed Akhtar, actors Shatrughan Sinha, Richa Chaddha, besides Swara Bhaskar, comedian Munawar Faruqui, Shobha De and Sudheendra Kulkarni among others were present.
If all regional parties come together, it would be easy to defeat the BJP, said Mamata. “We want to say BJP hatao, desh bachao,” she added. She clarified that Trinamool Congress will not contest upcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh while defending her party’s move to contest Goa elections where Congress is the principal opposition party.
Mamata sung Jai Maharashtra Jai Bangla tune saying that her party will not contest in Maharashtra but campaign for Shiv Sena which is leading the non BJP government in the state.
She took a swipe at the Congress MP Rahul Gandhi saying that “You need a continuous endeavour in politics. You can’t be abroad most of the time.” She also took a dig at BJP and noted that it is ‘’ not safe’’ citing that the party led government had to repeal three farm laws with an eye on upcoming assembly election in UP. The need is to keep the country safe, she added.
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