Hat in the PM Ring, It’s Wait-and-Watch for Mamata Banerjee on KCR’s Backdoor Entry Into Oppn Alliance
Skirting questions on the trust factor between Mamata Banerjee and KCR, TMC insiders say the focus is on defeating Narendra Modi and building opposition cohesion.
News18 Creative by Mir Suhail
Kolkata: Who’ll be the Prime Minister is not the priority right now, West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told News18, adding that the focus for now is to "defeat Modi" and the "solidarity within the opposition".
The comments are significant, coming amid efforts by her Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao to forge a non-BJP, non-Congress front a fortnight before the end of general elections.
A source close to Banerjee explained that the party had a "wait and watch approach" aimed at keeping all options on the table, and political cards close to their chest.
"Who the Prime Minister will be is not the priority right now. The main focus is to defeat Modi. This government has done a lot of harm to the country, from demonetisation to religious violence... We have a minimum of 10 good candidates... We will collectively decide," the Bengal CM said.
The idea of Banerjee as the "leader that India needs" is one that features prominently in her campaign across Bengal. She has in the past proposed the names of former PM and JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Both Gowda and Pawar have also backed Banerjee as a prime ministerial candidate in the past.
"I wanted opposition solidarity... It was for this purpose that I organised an opposition rally in Kolkata. All opposition leaders from different parties came and joined in the conclave," she added.
The Bengal CM's emphasis on opposition unity isn't without precedent. As early as August last year, Banerjee had proposed a loose federation of opposition parties before the election to try and galvanise efforts against the Modi government. Her formula had been that different political parties contest in areas of their strength. But this didn't sit well with the Congress high command, said senior leaders in the TMC.
Meanwhile, the speculation over Rao has increased since he met Kerala CM counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan on May 6 in Thiruvananthapuram and is also likely to meet DMK supremo MK Stalin on May 13. So far, it had appeared almost certain that KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) would lend support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But the meeting with DMK, officially a Congress ally, and CPI(M), locked in a battle with the BJP, had indicated that KCR could be looking for a 'backdoor' entry into the alliance.
The source, however, explained, "Whether or not Mamata Banerjee trusts KCR isn't the right question to ask. The point is that right now the focus has to be to maximise non-BJP seats, minimise BJP seats. The focus has to be on defeating Modi. The party will take a wait-and-watch approach with him (KCR) and keep all options on the table."
KCR has been proposing a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front at the Centre and has stayed away from all opposition meetings over the last year. But News18 has learnt that he is growing receptive to the idea of gaining a “backdoor entry” into any such possible alliance. Opposition parties are likely to meet on May 21 -- two days after the end of voting and two days before the results – to decide on a prime ministerial face.
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