Updated: September 18, 2021 10:00:15 am
At a time the entire Opposition is trying to form an anti-BJP front before 2024 General Election, Trinamool Congress’s party mouthpiece in West Bengal, ‘Jaago Bangla’, has sparked a potential storm by suggesting that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has failed to emerge as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should take that space.
On Friday, the headline in the lead report of the newspaper stated: “Rahul Gandhi paren-ni, Mamata-i bikolpo mukh (Rahul Gandhi could not, Mamata is the alternative face)”.
While the report, as well as TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, clarified that the party does not want to discard the Congress and is only saying that the TMC chief could be the possible Opposition face to counter Modi, the state Congress hit back and said this will only help BJP and that the party “strongly opposes” this stand.
Calling it an instance of bargaining by TMC, state Congress president and Lok Sabha member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “Mamata Banerjee says all opposition parties should be unified. On the other hand, without consulting any party, she is humiliating other parties. She is asking (TMC) to write in the party mouthpiece that she wants to be the Prime Minister. This is unfortunate…. We are strongly opposing this stand.”
The report in Bangla stated: “Congress-ke baad diye aamra kokhonoi BJP-birodhi bikolpo bolchhi na. Kintu Rahul Gandhi ekhono Narendra Modi-r bikolpo mukh hoye uthte parenni. Desher bikolpo mukh Mamata Bandyopadhyay. Aamra bikolpo hishebe jono-netrir mukh shaamne rekhei gota deshe prochar shuru korbo (We are never discussing an anti-BJP front without the Congress. But Rahul Gandhi is yet to emerge as an alternative to Modi. Banerjee is the alternative face for the country, and we will start campaigning across the country by keeping the mass leader (Banerjee) as that alternative)”.
The report quoted senior TMC leader and MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay purportedly stating in an address to party workers at a meeting, held in city’s University Institute Hall, on Wednesday: “Deshe bikolpo dorkar. Aami Rahul Gandhi ke bohudin chini. Kintu bolte badhyo hochchhi je tini ekhono Narendra Modi-r bikolpo hoye uthte pareni (The country needs an alternative. I know Rahul Gandhi for years, but I am forced to say that he never emerged as an alternative to Modi).”
The article also stated, “Rahul Gandhi got the opportunity on many occasions but failed. The alternative coalition will be made with the Congress, but in the campaign there should be a strong face, and that face is Mamata Banerjee.”
TMC leader Kunal Ghosh, who was also present in Wednesday’s meeting, said on Friday: “We never humiliated the Congress. We are also not saying we want to make a coalition without them. Sudip Banerjee only said what he thought, which is that Mamata Banerjee is the alternative to Narendra Modi. Time magazine has two politicians from India in its list of most powerful politicians of the world — Modi and Banerjee. So the world also thinks Banerjee is the alternative to Modi.”
But Chowdhury said this is playing into the hands of BJP. “The BJP would love to see disagreements in the Opposition ranks. This will make BJP more powerful. The TMC mouthpiece cannot decide whether Rahul Gandhi is eligible or ineligible (to lead the Opposition).”
He also said, “Didi’s style is the same as that of Modi. He also projected himself Prime Minister (candidate) much before 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Didi is doing the same. But this will be weaken Opposition unity and give the advantage to BJP.”
Seeking to dismiss the issue as one of little relevance, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “No one reads Jaago Bangla. They are publishing that their own leader will be the PM. Who the PM will be has to be decided by the people.”
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