New Delhi: Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in Delhi to meet Congress Sonia Gandhi -the agenda is the Presidential elections. Mrs Gandhi has taken the lead to scout for a candidate all the opposition parties are ready to back. She had her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi have spoken to most opposition leaders. Last week, from her hospital bed in Delhi, the 70-year-old Congress chief had called Ms Banerjee.
With President Pranab Mukherjee’s term set to end in July, Mrs Gandhi has already met Janata Dal United leader Nitish Kumar and Sharad Pawar, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party. Rahul Gandhi has conferred with the Left’s Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav.
But along with it, the opposition is also seen as moving to engineer a coalition of non-BJP parties for 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a second term.
“The Congress, CPM, BJP are locally working together — that is their problem,” said Ms Banerjee, who will meet Mrs Gandhi tomorrow.
But the new political alignment is creating discomfort in Kolkata, where the Congress is an ally of the arch-enemy of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, the Left Front. The two parties are trying to play down the impression that while they are shaking hands in Bengal, the Congress and the Trinamool seem to be drawing closer in Delhi.
“Mamata Banerjee is the B-team of BJP. Why is she destroying the secular forces? Mamata Banerjee is diminishing the Congress. How can we give her any importance?” said Congress legislator Abdul Mannan.
On Saturday, Bengal Congress chief Adhir Choudhury wrote to Sonia Gandhi, saying that a discussion of anything but presidential polls with Ms Banerjee could injure the Congress in the state.
Ahead of last year’s assembly elections, the state Congress leaders were seen as eager for an alliance with the Left. The tie-up came through despite the apparent disinterest of the Left’s central leaders. But though the two parties got flattened by the Trinamool Congress, winning only 76 of the 293 assembly seats, the alliance has lasted. The Trinamool won 211 seats.
Asked if the Left was unhappy with Ms Banerjee’s meeting with Mrs Gandhi, CPM legislator Sujan Chakraborty said, “Why should I be? She can go and meet anyone? In fact, she can go to hell. As long as she doesn’t take West Bengal to hell too.”
The BJP has laughed off the opposition get-together. Senior state party leader Shishir Bajoria said, “Individually, the Congress, the CPM or the Trinamool know they can’t fight us. They have no choice but to cosy up.