West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee made her national ambitions clear at a rally in Kolkata on Thursday, saying the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was the only alternative for the nation.
Taking a dig at the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Banerjee said her party would take the initiative to forge a Federal Front — the idea of which is similar to that of the Third Front — while keeping the big two and her arch-rival Left Front at bay.
Amid "Mamata as PM chorus", she came down heavily on the Congress and the BJP after launching her party's Lok Sabha campaign at Kolkata's historic Brigade Parade Ground.
"We do not want a dangabaj sarkar (government of rioters, read the BJP) or raj tantra (dynasty politics, read the Congress).
BJP is not the alternative to Congress... Congress is not the alternative to BJP. Trinamool Congress is the only alternative," she told the gathering.
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The TMC, which has 19 parliamentarians in the 15th Lok Sabha, is trying hard to shed its regional image. Besides Bengal, it will fight the general elections from Kerala and Tripura, two strongholds of the Left Front.
Banerjee had in the past joined hands with both the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, but parted ways with them over differences.
Claiming that she was not hungry for power, Banerjee pledged to fight for a Federal Front outside Bengal. "We will take a leading role."
The idea of an alternative front, raked up now and again by the Left, has been doing the rounds for quite some time. It has failed to find takers in the past owing to conflicting interests of regional parties.
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The Bengal chief minister sought a change in Delhi "just as we wanted parivartan (change) in Bengal". The TMC had ended the 34-year Left rule in the state by coming to power in 2011 assembly elections.
Surrounded by a score of intellectuals and minority clerics, Banerjee, who had quit the Congress to form the TMC in 1997, stressed the "chalo Delhi" slogan.
Under fire for a spate of rape cases in Bengal, Mukherjee asked why the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were silent when women were assaulted in Muzaffarnagar relief camps in Uttar Pradesh.
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"We will take strong action against rapists. But the Opposition should not forget the string of incidents during the Left rule," she said.
Before her speech, veteran author Mahasweta Devi and a prominent city-based Muslim cleric endorsed Banrejee's credentials for the prime minister's post.
"Mamata is the only able and most likely Prime minister of the country," said Mahsweta Devi.
SM Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque, said, "The nation wants her and needs her."
TMC's Thursday show of strength was a mixture of politics and glamour. Popular actor and Birbhum MP Shatabdi Roy performed with her dance troupe as the entire Tollywood gathered on the dais to express their solidarity with Banerjee.
While Bengali actor Deb asked the crowd to "be with Didi like me", famous Bengali singers entertained the crowd, and artistes gave company to families of Netai, Nandigram, Singur and Sain Bari victims.
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