Amid the talk of attempts to revive an anti-Congress front, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav have invited West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee — a key UPA ally — for the swearing-in ceremonies in Punjab and UP.
Badal also invited UPA allies Sharad Pawar (NCP) and Farooq and Omar Abdullah (National Conference), as well as Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa.
It’s not clear yet if Banerjee will attend the events, but Jayalalithaa said she would depute party MPs V Maithreyan and M Thambidurai on her behalf. Badal takes oath as Punjab chief minister on March 14 and Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav in UP the next day.
The invites come against the backdrop of non-Congress chief ministers, including Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and Nitish Kumar (Bihar), coming together to oppose the government’s proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre.
Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad downplayed the possibility of any anti-Congress grouping, saying the swearing-in invitations were “political courtesy”.
“Such things happen in politics. Don’t we invite representatives of others parties in such ceremonies?" he said.
Ahmed, who met Banerjee in Kolkata on Saturday, said: “I don't think such groupings are possible. I personally feel no UPA chief minister will be a party to it.”
Ahmed said he discussed state and national politics with Banerjee and refused to give details. After its poor showing in the UP polls, the Congress has softened its stand towards the Trinamool Congress.
Pradip Bhattacharya, the party’s West Bengal unit chief who had adopted a belligerent posture until recently, called the two parties “natural allies”.
Jayalalithaa is reported to have told Badal she would have to skip his swearing-in because of the campaign for the March 18 Sanakarankoil assembly bypoll.