Addressing her first public rally ahead of the Lok Sabha poll in Guwahati on Wednesday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she would not help NDA (National Democratic Alliance) form the next government at the Centre under the leadership of a person who had a role in a violent incident.
"I was with NDA under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is an imandar admi (honest person), so I supported the NDA govt. But I cannot support NDA under the leadership of a person who played a role in violence," she said, obviously referring to the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Banerjee reportedly said as much to Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, at a recent closed-door meeting. "I am impressed by the steps taken by her (Banerjee) for minority welfare. She made it clear she would not ally with the BJP or NDA. She can be a good prime ministerial option," Bukhari told HT.
On Wednesday, the Trinamool chief appealed to the people of Assam not to vote for either the Congress or the BJP. "Congress has a syndicate with BJP, they are running the government together. In the next election, we need a change."
Banerjee, whose party won 19 of Bengal's 42 seats and is expected to do well again, faces some tough political choices. She has stayed out of an "alternative front" because it has been propped by the Left, her main rival. Joining the NDA could spoil her support base among Muslims, who make up a quarter of the state's population.
However, if the Left does not fare well in the elections, due in May, she is likely to see many of the current constituents of the alternative front flock to her. Support of Muslims is crucial for Banerjee. They form a substantial part of rural votes in at least 26 districts.