Several Opposition leaders are expected to share the stage at a mega rally to be hosted by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here on Saturday. The “historic” event will “mark the death knell for BJP”, the Trinamool Congress chief said.
After the rally, the Opposition leaders are expected to hold informal meetings over tea to prepare a roadmap for a coalition against the ruling party in Delhi.
Speaking with mediapersons while overseeing preparations at Brigade Parade Grounds, the rally venue, Banerjee said, “It will be a historic mega rally. It will be a platform of all political parties to drive the BJP out. The nation will hear from leaders of different parties. The rally will mark the death knell for BJP. We (TMC) will hear what all parties have to say. Every political party has its own vision and ideology. We will not thrust our opinion on others. Let the leaders decide. This time regional parties will be the decision-maker.”
In battle for Centre, Mamata bid to take centre stage
The Opposition show of strength on January 19 will in a way sound the poll bugle for the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The coming together of such diverse political figures from across the country with Mamata Banerjee as their pivot will also firmly establish the TMC chief as one of the contenders for the top job post-elections, should it be available.
She added, “BJP will not get more than 125 seats this time. I do not know how many seats Congress will get. Congress is sending (Mallikarjun) Kharge ji and Abhishek Manu Singhvi for the rally.”
The leaders will start arriving on Friday, she said. “Tomorrow Akhilesh, Deve Gowda ji, Stalin will come. Others like Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar, Omar Abdullah will come the day after. I am here to see the preparations. Kumaraswamy, Chandrababu Naidu and others will also come. After the rally, we will have a cordial meeting at 4 pm over tea.”
The latest to join in was the BSP, which said it would send Rajya Sabha MP Satish Mishra. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, NC’s Farooq and Omar Abdullah, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, JDS leader and former PM H D Deve Gowda and son H D Kumaraswamy and DMK’s M K Stalin are expected to attend. So are RLD’s Ajit Singh and former Jharkhand CM Babulal Marandi.
Also expected are former BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha, Gegong Apang and Ram Jethmalani along with leaders like AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao will skip the rally. “He received the invite. But he won’t attend as the Telangana Assembly session is on,” said MP K Kavita, KCR’s daughter.
However, sources said that KCR will not attend because he does not want to share the platform with the Congress.
The TRS chief had been informed of the proposed meeting by Banerjee when they met in Kolkata on December 24, and KCR had requested her to join the federal front — minus Congress and BJP — proposed by him.
“Brigade rally will be a never-seen-before event. Special arrangements are being made to welcome the dignitaries and for their stay,” said TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
“The nation is looking towards this rally. Under Banerjee’s leadership, the federal front is expected to be initiated,” said Firhad Hakim, Cabinet minister and Kolkata Mayor.
Preparations are on in full swing. Five large stages are being erected. The TMC chief and leaders of various parties will be on the main stage, which will have a backdrop of a map of India and a picture of Banerjee. Other stages will be for senior TMC leaders, MPs and MLAs, apart from cultural programmes. Two thousand volunteers will be present at the venue. More than 20 LED display boards will beam the meeting live.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “People are being forced to attend the rally. TMC has no popularity. Banerjee is bringing retired and rejected leaders. TMC will not win a seat outside Bengal.”
The BJP is planning its own rally at Brigade Parade Ground on February 8.
— With inputs from Hyderabad