Calling for a realignment of political forces in the Opposition, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Friday signalled her intent to work with the Congress and CPM at the national level despite being political adversaries in her state for the “greater interest” to oust BJP.
In the same tune, she suggested that Congress should drop its reservations and rope in AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal under the united Opposition.
Speaking to The Indian Express (full interview will be published Monday, August 14), Banerjee laid out her Opposition coordination plan: “All regional parties must lead their regions. And the Congress party from the centre must help the regional parties. Where the Congress is strong, we will help them.
Where the regional parties are strong, then Congress is to help. That should be the policy, Then, I believe, in 2019, BJP can get a farewell.”
She said that all willing regional parties should be taken into confidence and underlined the need for a structured mechanism for coordination among this “grand alliance” of opposition parties.
Asked if there will be a leader to represent this alliance, Banerjee said: “Leader means somebody will have to call the meeting. Someone will have to convene the meeting. There must be a grand alliance. There must be a chairman. There must be a convenor.” In this context, she was all praise for Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “She is the hope for Congress party,” Banerjee said. She said the party had got weakened after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and it was Sonia Gandhi who had kept it afloat.
As part of her proposed broad rules of electoral engagement within the Opposition parties, Banerjee indicated she was all game to partner with Congress and CPM at the national level despite their local rivalry in West Bengal.
“Congress, as a national party, we are also a national party, but they are running three to four governments now also. What is the practical thing? I have differences in Bengal politics. Congress is fighting a battle with CPM against me. Sometimes they are with BJP also. So, I have a battle with them (in West Bengal). But at the national level for greater interest I will support them,” Banerjee said.
She suggested that the Congress should demonstrate similar pragmatism and favoured induction of AAP in the united opposition camp.
“I want even Arvind Kejriwal. Why should he be out? He should also be in. That also we have to think about. For the greater interest everybody have to be together. CPM is there but I don’t have to quarrel with them at the national level because of the greater interest. Then may be there are differences between Kejriwal and Congress but for greater interest they can work together,” Banerjee said. Her comments hold significance given that it was the Congress which had stalled AAP’s entry into united Opposition meetings.
“TMC will help all the regional parties and Congress also at the national level because we want all the regional parties must be together and let them walk as a collective family. It’s a collective responsibility,” Banerjee favoured.
The West Bengal Chief Minister, who was the first to hit out against Nitish Kumar by calling him a “betrayer” for supporting Narendra Modi over demonetisation last year, played down Nitish’s switch of alliances.
Asked of his exit was a setback to Opposition unity, she said: “No I don’t think so…Somebody will go, somebody will come. This is part and parcel of politics.”
When told that leaders of regional Opposition parties faced allegations of corruption and the BJP underlined these, Banerjee said that the BJP was attempting to paint a narrative where “every one is corrupt except them” and that “if you don’t support them, there will be an agency tomorrow”.
Quoting a Bengali proverb, she said that when “gangs of pickpockets” operate, its own members scream out. “Those who are really corrupt will raise the voice for the corrupted people. Someone picks a pocket, then their gang will scream, pickpocket, pickpocket,. Ultimately, their intention is that the pickpocket should get away and the original people should go the other way. So like this the BJP’s intention is (to say that) everyone is corrupt, except them.”