Mamata Banerjee revives bid for non-Congress front
NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: In a fresh move to build a non-BJP and non-Congress front, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday met Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav in Kolkata. Mr Yadav was in the city to attend the Samajwadi Party’s two-day national executive meeting that begins on Saturday. Mr Yadav confirmed that both the SP and Ms Banerjee’s TMC want to maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Yadav said: “In Bengal, we are with Mamata Didi. Right now, our stand is that we want to maintain equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress. Those who avail the ‘BJP vaccine’ are not bothered by the CBI, ED or I-T,” he said, referring to former Opposition party leaders against whom cases by the Central agencies are dropped after they joined the BJP.
Ms Mamata Banerjee will also meet Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the Biju Janata Dal supremo, next week. Trinamul Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay said: “Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will meet Naveen Patnaik on March 23. We will discuss this (plan to keep equidistance from BJP and Congress) with other Opposition parties. We are not saying it is a third front, but regional parties have the strength to take on the BJP.”
He added: “The BJP wants Rahul Gandhi to be the face (of the Opposition) so that it helps the BJP. There is no need to decide on a prime ministerial face (for the 2024 election).” In the last couple of weeks, the TMC is keeping a distance from the Congress in parliamentary proceedings. Some other parties are also trying to be equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress. Many feel if the 2024 contest is between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, the Opposition parties will be at a disadvantage as it happened in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A war of words had begun between the Congress and the TMC during the campaign in the Meghalaya Assembly polls where the Congress accused the TMC of helping the BJP. The Congress maintains that it will lead the Opposition alliance of like-minded parties against the BJP in the 2024 Lok sabha elections, something which some of the Opposition parties are not happy about.
During her visit to Odisha, Ms Banerjee will also offer puja at the Jagannath Temple in Puri.