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Mamata non-committal on KCR’s proposal to keep Congress out of anti-BJP platform 

K Chandrashekhar Rao has been advocating a non-BJP, non-Congress forum ahead of the 2019 general elections.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 09:08 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao being welcome by his West Bengal  counterpart Mamata Banerjee ahead of a  meeting in Kolkata on Monday.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao being welcome by his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee ahead of a meeting in Kolkata on Monday. (PTI)

Telangana chief minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao who met his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Monday did not get the endorsement he was seeking to keep the Congress out of an anti-BJP federal front for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

After the two-hour meeting at the state secretariat in Howrah, Rao said that the motive of the federal front is to create a non-BJP, non-Congress forum since transfer of power from hands of the BJP to that of the Congress will not achieve the larger goal of national development.

“The Federal Front is not a routine model. If power shifts from the BJP to the Congress, will there be any miracle? No. But the country needs a kind of miracle now and, hence, we want the front to be a non-BJP and non-Congress - one that can give an alternative model of development to the country,” Rao said.

Earlier this month, the 64-year old Rao, popularly known as KCR, who heads the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) offered to lead the new front and play a key role in national politics, if the people want him to do so.

Despite the Telangana chief minister emphasising his rejection of the BJP-Congress binary, Mamata Banerjee carefully chose her words and did not take the Congress’ name.

“Mr Rao has expressed his opinion. Politics is a continuous process. Dialogues have just started. Let the Federal Front be strong. There will be discussions with all like-minded parties,” the Bengal chief minister said.

“There is no hurry,” she added.

Despite their differences, both leaders described Monday’s meeting as “fruitful”.

Mamata Banerjee shares a personal equation with former Congress president Sonia Gandhi. In the Rajya Sabha elections, Banerjee has extended support to Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, guaranteeing him a seat from Bengal in the Upper House of the Parliament.

Trinamool Congress was a part of the UPA II government (2009-2014) before Mamata Banerjee walked out in September 2012. She formed Trinamool Congress in 1998 after she broke away from Congress where she started her political career in the 1970s.

BJP leaders in Bengal seemed to be cheering over the differences between Banerjee and KCR. “The people of India have seen enough of such political gimmick and they are tired of it. Such attempts are a futile exercise to satisfy their ego and greed for power. The more they do such things the public support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi will increase,” said Rahul Sinha, BJP’s national secretary and former president of the state unit.

But Congress Rajya Sabha member, Pradip Bhattacharya, appreciated Mamata Banerjee’s gesture and said that she has rightly understood that without Congress there cannot be any anti-BJP alternative.

“Former CPI (M) general secretary, Prakash Karat, tried a non-BJP and non-Congress front. He failed miserably. It is good that Mamata Banerjee is not repeating the mistake,” said Bhattacharya, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha with support from the Trinamool Congress.

When asked whether there will be any common minimum programme (CMP) of the proposed front, Mamata Banerjee said that the time has not yet come to decide on these matters. “Politics is a continuous process. Let more meetings take place and let there be discussions among all like-minded political parties. CMP can be discussed later,” she said.

Rao praised Banerjee as an administrator. “I have come to Kolkata after almost 13 years. I am amazed by the kind of progress the city has made under Didi’s leadership,” Rao said.