West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday cleared the air that she is not in the race to become ‘the face’ of a united force (of Opposition parties) to take on the BJP in the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha Polls.
While addressing ‘Ekushey July’ (Martyrs’ Day on July 21) speech virtually from her residence at Kalighat in South Kolkata, she said, “It is difficult to predict what will happen in 2024 (Lok Sabha Poll) but we have to start preparing for it now. I would like to request senior leaders like Sharad Pawar ji to arrange a meeting (of Opposition leaders) in Delhi as I will be in the national capital from July 27 to July 29. I will attend that meeting because I feel that we can’t afford to waste time. I will remain as an ordinary worker and I will follow your instructions to fight against this dangerous government at the Centre.”
She further said, “We need to work now on a formula against the BJP considering the 2024 polls because ‘aazadi khatre mein hai’ (freedom is in danger). Therefore, let’s unite to save our country because we have only two and half years left (for 2024 Lok Sabha polls). I felt that the alliance just before the poll will not work and therefore, we have to work on mission 2024 from now onwards.”
This is not the first time when Mamata diluted the issue over who will be the face of the united force against the BJP.
In November 2018, in a carefully scripted speech, she refused to name any leader as the face of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
This time too, sensing that projecting an individual face could jeopardize her effort to bring all Opposition leaders under one umbrella, Mamata on Wednesday clarified that she will work as an ordinary worker and she will listen to the instructions of other members of the united force against the BJP.
Political expert and Professor of Jadavpur University, Partha Pratim Biswas, said, “She cleared the air about her role in the alliance because she doesn’t want to allow anyone to sabotage their game plan to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha Polls. I think that she purposely clarified her role in advance to rubbish media reports that she is setting her footprint in other States to project herself as the most credible face against PM Modi. Such reports may damage the potential unity of the Opposition forces.”
On June 7, after the landslide victory in the 2021 Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee had announced that the party will expand its base in other States to take on the BJP head-on.
But political observers and experts feel that it won’t be an easy task for the TMC because the possibility of anti-Mamata sentiments cannot be ruled out within the anti-BJP front.