UNITED INDIA: Leaders of over 20 parties join Mamata in anti-Modi, pre-poll rally in Kolkata


KOLKATA: A bevy of regional leaders, old hats, and some second-line leaders of the Congress party participated in the “united India rally” organised at the sprawling Brigade Ground here on Saturday to firm up an anti-Modi, anti-BJP alliance at the national level at the instance of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. 

Bus and truck loads of TMC workers were ferried into the city from various parts of the state to make the rally a huge show of strength for the CM. As many as 20 parties across India were represented at the rally.

Attending the huge rally were, among others, three rebels from the BJP itself, namely former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha from Bihar and Arun Shourie from New Delhi, besides Karnataka leaders HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, DMK leader MK Stalin, UP leader Akhilesh Yadav of the SP, Jammu and Kashmir leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi and Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam party, Gegong Apang from the North East, Bihar’s young and influential leaders like Hardik Patel of the Patidar Andolan and Jignesh Mevani of the Dalit movement, Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhv, NCP leader Sharad Pawar from Maharashtra, JMM leader Heman Soren, BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and Lok Tantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav.
Yashwant Sinha said he aspired for nothing in life today other than an exit of the Modi government from power. Arun Shourie said this government was the most corrupt and this government had also destroyed the defence sector, as also institutions like the RBI, the CBI, the bureaucracy as a whole and the media. Shatrughan Sinha said Mamata Banejree has a great national stature, she has grown beyond West Bengal, and she can be the PM.”

Referring to the Rafale deal, Shatrughan Sinha shouted at the top of his voice, “Chowkidar chor hai, chowkidar chor hai, chowkidar chor hai.”
The Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who head the TRS and BJD parties respectively, rejected Mamata’s call to attend the rally. The Left was also spectacular by its absence.
Banerjee is to hold a tea-party conclave at the new government guest house, Soujanya, at which the Opposition leaders present here today would attend. This would be followed by a press conference. 

AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said the BJP wanted to divide India, and “we want to unite India.”

Congress president Rahul Gandhi sent a message to Mamata Banerjee, wishing success for the rally. Sonia Gandhi too kept away from the rally, despite invitations to the two top Congress leaders. 

In a message read out at the rally by Kharge, Sonia Gandhi said the nation was facing a serious crisis. “The crisis looms over farmers and at the borders. The fishermen are under loss and youths are unemployed. Our country is under a lot of stress. The upcoming Lok Sabha elections will not be an ordinary one. It will be an election to restore people’s faith in democracy. I wish all the success (to the Kolkata rally).”

Arvind Kejriwal said the Modi government was corrupt, and cited the Rafale purchase. He said he would organise a similar rally in Delhi soon, to take the idea of an Opposition alliance forward.

The meeting is seen as the West Bengal chief minister’s attempt to emerge as the focal point of the anti-BJP election fight for Lok Sabha this year, and to strengthen her case to be the next prime minister of the country. Significantly, another contender for the PM post, Mayawati from Uttar Pradesh kept off the meet. Banerjee is proposing an axis of regional parties to collectively stake the claim for PM post after the polls if the BJP or Congress fails to muster majority in the new Lok Sabha. 

“I am not bothered as to who would become the PM, but what I want is the BJP to be removed from power,” Mamata Banerjee said at the rally. “PM targeted all of us. So, why would we not target him now? Everything changes. Weather also changes. So, why should not a government change?” Said she, “We will hold another rally in Brigade Grounds — that is, after we win the Lok Sabha polls.” 

She also said the BJP will be wiped out of West Bengal, where it now has two of the total 42 seats.

In retaliation, Prime Minister Modi has been quoted as saying at a BJP rally in Silvassa, “One BJP has given sleepless nights to all the regional leaders. They are crying for help and shouting from Kolkata, ‘bachao, bachao’. ” Silvassa is a town in the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli, bordering Gujarat in Western India. ==IHN-NN

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