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KCR-Mamata Meet: 'Fine Beginning', But Alliance With Congress Remains Contentious Issue

While it seemed that KCR visualised that “alternative federal front” as a strictly non-Congress, non-BJP platform, Mamata preferred to not entirely shut the doors on the Congress whose president Rahul Gandhi gave out signals for tie-ups with like-minded regional parties during its 84th plenary session.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay | CNN-News18

Updated:March 20, 2018, 8:36 AM IST
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KCR-Mamata Meet: 'Fine Beginning', But Alliance With Congress Remains Contentious Issue
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao after their meeting at Nabanna in Kolkata on Monday. (PTI Photo)
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Both Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee called their meeting in Kolkata “a good beginning” towards the formation of an alternative federal front to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 general elections. But, as they say, the devil lies in the details.

While it seemed that KCR visualised that “alternative federal front” as a strictly non-Congress, non-BJP platform, Mamata preferred to not entirely shut the doors on the Congress whose president Rahul Gandhi gave out signals for tie-ups with like-minded regional parties during its 84th plenary session.

“If you replace the BJP with the Congress, will there be a miracle? What this country needs is a miracle. Something great needs to be done. It has to be revolutionary. The country needs to change, re-invent and re-orient itself,” Rao said while explaining the broad lines of the prospective federal front after meeting Banerjee at the West Bengal state secretariat, Nabanna, for about 90 minutes on Monday afternoon.

Asked whether he would accept outside support from the Congress if the situation so warranted, Rao said: “You are thinking routine political models. Our agenda would be different from these routine models. It would be people’s agenda which is not meant for any political parties or their leaders.”

“You know what has been happening in this country for the last 71 years and you still want that same routine model to continue?” the Telengana CM asked in justification for his non-Congress non-BJP stand.

In contrast, Mamata sounded far more careful about drawing the contours of the prospective federal front which she has consistently and vociferously advocated over the past few years while taking on the Modi government at the Centre.

Asked about keeping the Congress out she said, “You don’t put words in my mouth. Mr. Rao has expressed his views. Where is the harm in that? Rahul (Gandhi) too had expressed his views. We can all have our individual views.”

The West Bengal CM said politics can throw up circumstances when all kinds of individuals get the opportunity to work together. “In a democracy, we must develop the culture of working together. We have good relations with other parties and we will maintain that. If we can work together, nothing can be better for this country,” she said, clearly indicating her intentions to keep reaching out to other regional opposition parties for finding a common minimum ground on which a workable alliance could be forged ahead of the 2019 polls.

“We have only just started this dialogue. Others would automatically gather around us. We want a strong federal front. If the states are strong, the Centre too would be strong. It’s like a collective family. Let us approach the other parties and discuss this matter. We are in no hurry,” she clarified, even as KCR stood next to her and nodded in agreement.

Barely 24 hours before KCR called on Mamata in Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu had a telephone conversation with his Bengal counterpart where the two, reportedly, agreed to sit face to face to discuss matters on the evolving political scenario in the country.

Mamata has already welcomed the Telegu Desam Party’s decision to quit the NDA over alleged “unfulfilled promises of granting special status to the state” and has pledged support to Naidu in the eventuality of him moving a no-confidence motion in Parliament against the Narendra Modi government.

Mamata is also scheduled to travel to Delhi later this month during the ongoing Parliamentary session where she is likely to meet opposition leaders across the board for another round of alliance talks.

Incidentally, the Bengal CM has repeatedly maintained that she has little interest in either leading this front or the Prime Minister’s chair if her goal of bringing regional opposition forces under one umbrella bears fruit. From Lalu Yadav to Akhilesh Yadav and Naveen Patnaik to even disgruntled NDA allies like Uddhav Thackeray, Mamata has attempted to strike a personal bond with leaders across the political spectrum in the recent past. But contentious issues like supporting the Congress or her stand on the dwindling Left has made her moves so far a tightrope walk.

While she flanked KCR at the press conference following Monday’s Nabanna meet, the Telengana CM was unequivocal about who would lead the prospective federal front. “Do not worry. It will be a collective leadership. Leaders emerge from situations and sequence of events,” KCR said. Mamata chose not to add to that statement.


| Edited by: Puja Menon
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