New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said everyone would be the face of the 'Mahagathbandhan' after her meeting with her Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu, who had projected Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the proposed anti-BJP bloc.
Banerjee, who met Naidu in Kolkata, said they would fight together against the BJP to save the nation and would chalk out a programme to take their initiative further.
The meeting between the leaders comes in the backdrop of the proposed alliance facing hiccups after the grand meeting of opposition parties scheduled for November 22 was postponed, sources told News18 on Monday.
Naidu has been trying to forge an anti-BJP alliance of regional parties, along with the Congress, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the past few weeks, he has met several regional leaders and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to discuss the same. Naidu had earlier announced an anti-BJP party conclave in the capital, for which he had met Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot in Amaravati.
But it hasn't been smooth sailing. With both Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati criticising the Congress in the past week, Mamata Banerjee had raised questions over the timing of the meeting. "The issue is that if all opposition leaders aren't present at the meeting, then it doesn't show a united front and doesn't show solidarity," she said.
Akhilesh had accused the Congress of attempting to scuttle his party's chances in Chhattisgarh, while Mayawati described both the BJP and Congress as "snakes", adding that she would rather remain in opposition than ally with either.
While Banerjee has argued for the presence of both Akhilesh and Mayawati at the rally, concerns were also raised by NCP president Sharad Pawar, sources said. "Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee spoke on Saturday and concerns were raised about the role that the Congress was playing ahead of the meeting. It appeared that the Congress was trying to hijack the situation and take control of the entire matter," said a source.
Concerns were also raised about the role of Ashok Gehlot, whom Naidu had roped in for coordinating the meeting.
Banerjee remains in touch with the Congress leadership, said sources in Trinamool Congress. A senior leader from the party maintained that among the proposals was a meeting in the capital during the Winter Session of Parliament.
However, a senior TDP leader maintained that supporting the Congress through a united front at a time when Assembly elections are underway would aid the opposition ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Stitching an alliance of different regional parties with diverse political views isn't easy, said the leader. Take, for instance, the fact that Naidu had suggested that the November 22 meeting in Delhi could take place at Andhra Bhawan while also suggesting the "more neutral venue" of the Constitution Club, said the leader.
Last week, the Andhra Pradesh government also withdrew its general consent given to the CBI, which is being seen as an all-out war between Naidu and the BJP-led Centre. Banerjee followed suit, supporting Naidu.
Reacting to Naidu’s attempts to build a front against it, the BJP said the Andhra Chief Minister’s efforts were futile as many opposition parties were resisting his efforts to grab a central role for himself and to project Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the leader of such a grouping.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimhra Rao also took a dig at Naidu after he announced in Kolkata that a planned conclave of opposition parties for November 22 has been postponed.
The meeting will eventually be shelved given the competing interests of the proposed partners and Congress's negative image, he said in a statement.
"Whatever may be Naidu's political compulsions for his desperate actions, there is no credible alternative leader or party to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP in national politics today. Naidu is making futile attempts at alliance building," the Rajya Sabha member said.
The postponement of the opposition meet is a severe setback to "desperate and spirited efforts of Naidu, who is Andhra Pradesh chief minister, to cobble up a "United Corrupt Alliance" with many potential partners resisting his attempts to grab a central role for himself and projecting Gandhi as a leader of the alliance, Rao said.