The ‘Save Democracy Satyagrah’ rally organised by the Aam Aadmi Party at Jantar Mantar in the national capital on Wednesday saw the entire Opposition, including leaders from the Left parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), on one stage — a feat that had eluded both West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at her rally in Kolkata last month and Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu at his day-long fast here two days ago.
Both Banerjee and Naidu were present at today’s rally along with National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Yadav of Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), NCP’s Sharad Pawar, DMK’s Kanimozhi, Gegong Apang, former Arunachal Pradesh CM who quit BJP last month , CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D Raja, and SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav.
Yechury and Raja lent their support to Opposition unity but left the venue minutes before Banerjee arrived.
Banerjee delivered one of her trademark combative speeches, reminiscent of the time when she had almost single-handedly dislodged the 34-year-old Left Front government in West Bengal.
Referring to BJP top leadership as “Gabbar Singh”, Banerjee said, “They are threatening the entire country with Gabbar Singh — children, traders…everybody. How many Gabbars are there? There are two you know — the two from Gujarat whose hands are red; they have blood on their hands.”
Speaking in a language she is not comfortable in, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief started off with an apology to the crowd for her lack of proficiency in Hindi. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said, “…Modi, you are neither a leader nor a ladder…your expiry date is over.”
Banerjee said that while she is not willing to cede any ground in West Bengal to anyone, opposition parties are together nationally. “For the sake of the country, I am willing to sacrifice my life; I am willing to sacrifice my party,” she said.
The last was a reply to Farooq Abdullah’s mild rebuke: “Defeat Modi first then think of the Prime Minister’s chair. Big causes need sacrifices. The days are over when there was the flag of one party across the country.”
The dynamics of the “mahagathbandhan” — the grand alliance — and even its kinks, though, were visible in the united show. Banerjee told Arvind Kejriwal, her Delhi counterpart and the AAP chief: “Win all seven (Lok Sabha) seats in Delhi; do not let anyone else win here. We will all take on BJP where we are strong — us (TMC) in Bengal, Chandrababu in Andhra Pradesh, SP-BSP-RLD in Uttar Pradesh…”
The statement, coming hours after Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury launched a scathing attack on TMC in the Lok Sabha, accusing the Bengal government of taking part in “loot” through the chit fund scam, effectively ruled the Congress out of contention in Delhi, which will not go down well with the grand old party, which had sent Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma for the meeting.
Banerjee said while she is prepared to take on the “Congress, the Left and the BJP” in Bengal, and still win all 42 Lok Sabha seats, nationally “we are all together.” She spoke briefly to Anand Sharma at the rally but by the time she took the microphone, and discounted Congress’s chances in Delhi, Sharma had already left.
Sharma said the Modi government is now in the “departure lounge” and agencies such as CBI and ED should keep that in mind. “How come they do not go after any BJP leader,” Sharma asked. Both Sharma and Sharad Pawar mentioned that even the RBI, CBI and the Supreme Court have been destroyed by the government.
Taking potshots at Modi, Naidu said, “This is a country of educated people — we (Indians) are all highly educated, we have made strides in technology. The problem is the PM is not educated. When I ask him where he got his degree from, he can’t answer.”
Hitting out at Modi, Kejriwal recalled that the Congress-led UPA government, too, was thrown out by the people in 2014 “after the historic anti-corruption movement’s gathering at Jantar Mantar”, and “this dharna will uproot the Modi government”.