He looked like a reserved newcomer. She, a former MP and central minister, took on the role of her guide.
As Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal spent Wednesday afternoon in Parliament House — his first visit as chief minister — with his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, the growing bonhomie between the Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool was on full display.
The two leaders have developed a working relation over the past year but Banerjee and Kejriwal’s day out in Parliament was aimed at sending political signals to several parties, especially the Left that had been trying to get close to the ruling party in Delhi.
The coming together of the two strong regional leaders was also a message to potential third front partners that any non-BJP combination must consider them in future political plans.
After spending almost an hour in Central Hall, Banerjee took Kejriwal to Trinamool’s office. There, Banerjee even held a quick strategy meeting with her colleagues and asked them to work in tandem with AAP MPs in Lok Sabha. AAP member Bhagwant Mann cracked political jokes to a giggling audience.
Kejriwal had gone to Parliament earlier as a visitor to the Lok Sabha during a debate on the RTI bill in the UPA era. But this was his first ever visit to Central Hall, generally a hanging out zone for serving and former parliamentarians.
Fish fry and tandoori chicken were hurriedly served. Banerjee told the waiter to bring vegetarian food for her Delhi counterpart. Kejkriwal tried to taste bread toast and chana even as he was busy greeting MPs introduced by the Bengal CM.
Banerjee even introduced Mukul Roy, her estranged party MP. Kejriwal greeted him in Bengali, “Kemon achhen? (How are you)” Mamata reminded her party colleagues that Kejriwal had spent some years in Bengal as a student at IIT-Kharagpur. Kejriwal said he can’t speak Bangla but can understand the language.
Bhagwant Mann, who recently had a tiff with the party leadership, sat in front of Kejriwal. He kept introducing Kejriwal to the MPs, including Congress’ Ravneet Singh Bittu.When somebody asked Mamata about any possibility of an alliance with the Congress in Punjab, she pointed to Kejriwal saying, “AAP will win in Punjab”, a Trinamool MP present there said.
Banerjee even showed Kejriwal the location of the two Houses — “Lok Sabha is there, on the Left, and Rajya Sabha is straight from the Central Hall.”
Kejriwal thanked Didi. After all, he will have three MPs in the Upper House in 2017.