Mamata Banerjee has carefully carved an image for herself as a force that binds the opposition.
“Let us first defeat the BJP. We will sit down and decide upon who becomes PM later,” said Mamata Banerjee. The TMC chief who was in New Delhi yesterday to meet her party MPs over raising NRC issue in parliament had a quite busy day. The TMC party office in parliament was buzzing with party MPs and leaders from opposition parties who came to visit the West Bengal Chief Minister. The steady stream of visitors continued. “Do hazaar Unnees, BJP finish (We will finish BJP in 2019),” said Mamata Banerjee. Though opposition is still in a denial mode over the leadership, Mamata Banerjee spoke almost with an authority and conviction of a crusader of the opposition coalition.
Earlier in the day, she made it to the headlines as she met senior BJP leader LK Advani. Though she brushed aside speculations calling it nothing more than a “courtesy call”, it didn’t go unnoticed that the stream of visitors outside TMC office also included ousted BJP MP Kirti Azad. The senior Congress leader Ahmad Patel, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav and RJD MP Dr Misa Bharati too were among those visited her.
Since the winds of anti-BJP front started blowing, Mamata Banerjee positioned herself at the forefront of the opposition battalion-whether it be building the third front or even the NRC issue. The TMC and Mamata Banerjee herself has launched an aggressive offensive against the BJP and the Modi government. Even if Congress is considered the biggest opposition party and is expected to lead the coalition, it is Mamata Banerjee who seems to set the Anti-BJP tone for opposition aggressively. Which brings us to the question, has Mamata Banerjee already considered herself opposition’s PM candidate?
Take an example of NRC issue. The first opposition to NRC updating came from Mamata Banerjee. Attacking BJP over using NRC for political gains, she said that it will lead to Civil War and there will be a bloodbath. Her statement served the purpose as they hit national headlines. Rest was taken care by TMC MPs. As the Monsoon session is going on the parliament is witnessing heated debates over NRC. A day after Mamata Banerjee visited her party MPs in New Delhi, the unusually furious Derek O’Brien said that the party will not allow the parliament to function as BJP’s back garden. The TMC MPs even tried to pay a visit to Silchar, though failed. While Congress too has cornered the Modi govt on NRC issue in parliament; the TMC has successfully made its presence felt outshining Congress.
On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee has carefully carved an image for herself as a force that binds the opposition. As soon as the TDP broke away from NDA and BJP; Mamata Banerjee took quick steps to reach out to the Andhra party and bring them in the opposition fold. Over the next few months, she reached out to key regional parties including Telangana’s TRS, Karnataka’s JD(S) and even AAP. However, her camaraderie with BJP’s longest ally Shivsena is what really turns the eyeballs. Not only she was given a personal reception at Maatoshri but now the Maratha party has confirmed the presence of Uddhav Thackeray at a massive rally organized by Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata in the election year.
The talks of Banerjee being in a race to PM post is nothing new. But apart from her, no other leader from opposition seems to be taking efforts. Congress has been pushing Rahul Gandhi’s name for the PM candidate as it is guessed, however, the party has to realise that occasional aggressive speeches and tweets will not do any miracle. To knit an alliance the person has to be on the move and build fronts while coming across as a leader. Rahul Gandhi has done none or too little to build these alliances. Even the Congress-JD(S) alliance was the result of the quick action by senior party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge. The Congress still has a lot of inward looking to be done before looking outward to form an alliance.
Mamata Banerjee had sensed long back that Rahul Gandhi will not have wider acceptability as opposition leader or even as a PM candidate among the opposition parties. The circumstances are now favourable for her and even though she may not accept it, Mamata Banerjee has already upped the ante over Prime Ministerial race.
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