Her efforts to put together a federal front ahead of the Lok Sabha elections may not have borne fruit but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is raring to be a part of a secular front “to fight communal forces”.
Though she rules out taking the lead herself, Trinamool supremo who is in Delhi to participate in a Congress conference to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, is starting to informally reach out to like-minded parties. She believes even ideological differences with the Left in West Bengal would not come in the way of being a part of a secular front nationally.
Banerjee is likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi one on one on the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav too has told the West Bengal CM that he would soon visit Kolkata and meet her there. Banerjee says she had also tried to call former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha after she was jailed on corruption charges, though it should not be linked to politics.
She will meet President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday to invite him for an industry summit the West Bengal government is planning in January.
“I had floated the idea of a federal front before the Lok Sabha elections. That did not work out probably because everybody was too busy then with the elections. Had it happened then BJP would never have come to power. Look at what a small percentage of votes they had got in Lok Sabha and now also in Maharashtra,” said the TMC chief.
Asked if she was willing to take the lead now, Banerjee said: “I am a small fry…Others can do it. Once somebody does that I will support them. I am for all religious leaders but not for riot leaders. I have ideological differences in the state with the Left but that should not come in the way of fighting communal forces because secularism is the bedrock of India…I will go to any extent to protect secularism even with my life if required,” she said.
She blamed the BJP for trying to fuel communal fire in West Bengal. While she said she would not tolerate jihadists to thrive in the state — “though terror has no religion” — the same rules should apply for others who try to vitiate the atmosphere. Incidentally, the BJP state unit in West Bengal is on a collision course with the state government over permission to hold a rally in Dharamtala to be attended by BJP national president Amit Shah. Banerjee says rallies are no longer allowed there.
Soon after leaving Vigyan Bhawan, Banerjee headed to L K Advani’s residence on Prithviraj Road to meet his ailing wife Kamala. Asked about PM Narendra Modi, she said: “I am too small a person (to meet him). Anyway he is abroad now. But I would want to meet Arunji (Jaitley) because he has been ailing and when he came to Kolkata he had visited me. I also want to meet Rajnathji and Sushmaji.” Later in the evening she visited Jaitley at his Krishna Menon Marg residence.