‘We all are kings’, says Mamata Banerjee on opposition’s unity ahead of 2019 polls
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Wednesday that the Opposition parties would face next year’s Lok Sabha elections under a “collective leadership” as they aim to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power.
Banerjee, who is playing a key role in trying to unite several regional parties, met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi to talk about the current political situation and the 2019 election. “We discussed how we can work together,” Banerjee said.
When asked about the possibility of an alliance in 2019, Banerjee, standing outside Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence, said: “All Opposition parties will come together. Our priority is to defeat the BJP. We will fight under a collective leadership.”
Banerjee’s comments seem to indicate the intention of the Opposition to not let personal ego and the question of who will lead the federal front come in the way of forming a coalition that aims to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her emphasis on collective leadership also comes barely a week after Congress president Rahul Gandhi told Modi in Parliament that “all Opposition parties and some of your friends are coming together to defeat” the BJP during the debate on the no confidence motion.
Banerjee quoted the poet Rabindranath Tagore to describe the nature of the coalition: “One of his songs say we all are kings. That will be the nature of the Opposition unity. You can see the BJP is politically nervous because they know they will not return to power in 2019.”
The Bengal chief minister said the strongest Opposition party in a given constituency should contest from there. This will boost the strength of the federal front against the BJP. The meeting also signifies that even as the Congress and the Trinamool are at the loggerheads in the Bengal politics, the two sides are keeping their options open for an understanding at the national level.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Collective leadership means that we will fight collectively. I think it’s a good suggestion and correct approach. The finer details have to be worked out at an appropriate time.”
Two years ago, the Congress high command allowed its local unit to informally tie up with the CPI(M)-led Left Front for the state assembly polls. The meeting on Wednesday also indicates that the principal Opposition party is ready to talk with the Trinamool with the Left Front reduced to the margins.
The chief minister also raked up the NRC issue to say that the 4 million people whose names are missing from the citizenship list “belong to states like Bihar, West Bengal, UP and Tamil Nadu”.
“Some have lived there for 100 years through five generations. Some have worked in the army,” she added.
Afzal Amanullah, former parliamentary affairs secretary said: “If the Opposition really wants to defeat the BJP, they should first focus on creating a strong alliance. The issue of leadership must be decided after the election.”