New Delhi: One of the biggest opposition rallies in Kolkata ahead of the 2019 general election on Saturday was attended by political leaders from all over the country, most among them had been partners with the ruling NDA in the past.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and CM Bengal Mamata Banerjee, the organiser of the Kolkata rally, had joined the BJP-led NDA government in 1999 and was allocated the Railways Ministry.
In early 2001, after the expose of Operation West End, Banerjee walked out of the NDA cabinet and allied with the Congress Party for West Bengal's 2001 elections, to protest the corruption charges levelled against senior ministers of the government.
She returned to the NDA government in January 2004, and held the Coal and Mines portfolio till the general election were held in 2004, in which she was the only TMC member to win a Parliamentary seat from West Bengal.
It was before the 2009 parliamentary elections that she forged an alliance with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress.
The rally was also attended by leaders who were part of the BJP until recently.
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu was also part of the NDA in the capacity of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo until March last year.
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha quit the BJP in April last year and has been reported to be in talks with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to contest elections from Delhi. Sinha, while speaking at the rally, said, “It’s not about removing one man, it’s about defeating an ideology.”
The ideological difference is perhaps what was displayed by leaders like Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha, who were also present at the rally. Both of them are still with the BJP but have taking stands that been at variance with their parent party.
Taking a jibe at the opposition members, finance minister Arun Jaitley, in his blog on Monday, wrote, “2/3rd of those on stage were those who in the past have worked with the BJP. Some octogenarians reached Kolkata to satisfy their late-life ambitions.”
News18 found 16 leaders whose parties have allied with the NDA before — like former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy from the Janata Dal, Sharad Yadav from the Loktantrik Janta Dal, MK Stalin from the DMK, Ajit Singh from the RLD and other regional leaders.
The only exceptions to this group were Tejashwi Yadav from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Arvind Kejriwal from Aam Admi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav from Samajwadi Party and representatives of the Congress.
Jaitley further wrote that the opposition politics had thrown up four desirous Prime Ministers wishing to challenge Prime Minister Modi. “Besides Mamata Banerjee, the other three – Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and KCR were significantly absent in Kolkata,” he penned down in his blog.
Immediately after the rally, Tejashwi Yadav went on record to say that Rahul Gandhi is the PM candidate for the opposition. The sentiment was also echoed by Stalin in the days to follow. However, Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy said Mamata Banerjee is the one who should become the next Prime Minister.