Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee may not have made much headway in actualising her goal for a pan-India anti-BJP ‘Federal Front’. But her efforts in reaching out to young turks in the country’s political circle have set off fresh speculation.
Pleased with the Gujarat election results where the BJP slipped to the double-digit mark of 99 from its earlier strength of 115, Banerjee was quick to call up Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Hardik Patel and congratulate him.
“I called him for his remarkable job at this young age,” Banerjee had said.
Terming the results as a “moral defeat” for the BJP in Gujarat, the Trinamool Congress chief also personally congratulated Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who won as an Independent candidate, and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who won on a Congress ticket.
Speaking to News18 over phone, Mevani said, “It was a pleasure to receive a call from Mamata di. She congratulated me.”
Asked whether he has any plans to visit Kolkata, he said, “As of now, no.”
Her geniality with other anti-BJP leaders like AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has led many to believe that Mamata could be carefully surging ahead in projecting herself as the most credible anti-BJP face in the country, especially after Sonia Gandhi passed the baton of Congress leadership to son Rahul Gandhi.
With Rahul at the helm of the Congress, Trinamool Congress leaders say that Mamata is not too keen yield the opposition space to him. “She (Mamata) wanted to take the lead as an opposition leader ever since there was a change in the Congress leadership,” a senior Trinamool leader said.
The clear shift in Trinamool’s stand was evident after party MP Derek O’Brien, in a carefully scripted statement, said, “Most of the young leaders are getting in touch with Trinamool Congress supremo for her guidance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.”
In Parliament, too, both Congress and Trinamool were heard raising different issues.
That Banerjee is willing to take her chances even with bickering BJP allies was evident when she reached out to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray during her visit to Mumbai. Uddhav, accompanied by his son Aditya, met Banerjee at a South Mumbai hotel and spent about an hour discussing politics and administrative cooperation.
There are, however, some in Banerjee's party who think that like the ‘Federal Front’, her efforts to woo youngsters may not cut ice since most young MPs either belong to the BJP or its allies. These lawmakers include like Poonam Mahajan, Abhishek Singh, Rajesh Chudasama, Savitri Thakur, Raksha Khadse, Anju Bala and Priyanka Singh Rawat from the BJP, Chirag Paswan from the Lok Janshakti Party and NCP’s Heena Gavit.
Another young leader, Dushyant Chautala of the INLD, is believed to be unwilling to support Mamata because of her unclear stand on the Congress.
INLD spokesperson Dalbir Dhankar said his party won’t support those close to the Congress. “We will not support any party which is close to the Congress. We left the BJP and the Congress because we wanted to form an anti-BJP, anti-Congress front. We support Mamata’s strong anti-BJP stand, but she needs to come clear on the Congress.”
While it is clear that the country’s anti-BJP brigade would focus on young turks for building a strong anti-saffron mood in run-up to the 2019 elections, it is still a matter of speculation on whether Mamata and Rahul would move in opposite directions to achieve that goal.