Prominent National Leader: Shatrughan On Mamata For PM

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Kolkata: Asserting that he has not received “respect” in his party, BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha said he will attend a mega rally of opposition leaders being organised by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Saturday.

He will attend the rally as a representative of “Rashtra Manch”, a political action group launched by former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and supported by him, Sinha told PTI on Thursday. The actor-politician has been at odds with the BJP on several decisions taken by the BJP-led Centre, including demonetisation, and has criticised it as a “one-man show”.
“I will be participating in the event on behalf of Rashtra Manch…,” Sinha said over phone from Mumbai, and tried to justify his decision to attend the rally saying, “Even some BJP leaders participate in the programme of the RSS.”

“Till now my loyalty for the party cannot be questioned. I joined BJP when it was a party of two MPs and I have always worked to strengthen it,” he stressed. The BJP Lok Sabha member from Patna Sahib constituency will be a “star speaker” at the rally. The rally will be attended by leaders from opposition parties, including HD Deve Gowda, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Chandra Babu Naidu, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, BSP’s Satish Mishra, besides Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.

It is being projected as a show of strength by anti-BJP political parties ahead of the general election, expected to be held in April-May. Sinha, 72, praised Banerjee, calling her an “iron lady” and a “prominent national leader”. Asked if Banerjee could become prime minister after the 2019 election, he said, “PM will be decided by people and leaders of the parties based on numbers after the election… But she is certainly in the category of best personality.”

“She is no more only a regional leader but a prominent national leader,” Sinha, her colleague in the NDA Cabinet of former prime minister A B Vajpayee, said over phone from Mumbai. Asked about the speculation in the media that he might take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi in the Lok Sabha election as a candidate of the united opposition, Sinha said, “I neither confirm this nor deny it.”

“It’s churning period for me. I will speak on these issues only when the weather changes for good,” he said, appearing to be philosophical. But he praised BSP chief Mayawati and her Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, who have formed an alliance to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the election. Sinha, popularly known as “Bihari Babu”, repeated he was committed to people of his Patna Sahib constituency, from where he has been elected for the second consecutive term. “Situation could be different but location will be same,” he said, suggesting he would contest from Patna Sahib even if he decides to fight from an additional seat somewhere else.