The Congress’s plan to put up a united fight along with other Opposition parties against the BJP in 2024 seems to be dwindling as both Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav have said that they would keep away from the Grand Old Party in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The strategy is aimed at countering the BJP's attempt to portray Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as a key leader of a grouping of opposition parties.
Three key opposition parties in the centre have agreed to keep both the Congress and the BJP at an arm’s length, indicating they will follow a policy of treating the two parties equally.
This was decided after Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav met Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata today. Ms Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, will also meet Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha who heads the Biju Janata Dal, next week.
The strategy is aimed at countering the BJP’s attempt to portray Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as a key leader of a grouping of opposition parties. The BJP has been trying to get Mr Gandhi to apologise after he alleged opposition leaders’ microphones are muted in India’s parliament during a speech in London recently. Other opposition parties now suspect the BJP has been targeting them using Mr Gandhi.
“Rahul Gandhi made comments abroad and BJP will not let parliament function till he apologises. This means they don’t want parliament to function by using the Congress. The BJP wants Rahul Gandhi to be the face (of opposition) so that it helps the BJP. There is no need to decide on a prime ministerial face (for 2024 election),” Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay told NDTV.
Mr Bandyopadhyay said it’s a fallacy to think the Congress is the “big boss” of the opposition.
“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will meet Naveen Patnaik on March 23. We will discuss this (plan to maintain equidistance from BJP and Congress) with other opposition parties. We are not saying it is a third front, but regional parties have the strength to take on the BJP,” Mr Bandyopadhyay said.
Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed they want to maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP.
“In Bengal, we are with Mamata Didi. Right now, our stand is we want to maintain equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress,” Mr Yadav told reporters in Kolkata. “Those who avail the ‘BJP vaccine’ are not bothered by CBI, ED or I-T,” he said, referring to former opposition party leaders against whom cases by central investigation agencies were dropped after they joined the BJP.
Mr Yadav’s comment also alluded to several opposition party leaders being allegedly hounded by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, most recently Aam Aadmi Party’s Manish Sisodia and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Yadav and his family.
“The Trinamool Congress will go its own way, maintaining distance from both the Congress and BJP,” senior Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay said after a meeting of the party leaders.
He, however, added that the party was not “talking of a third front at the moment”, while warning that the Congress should not believe it was the “big boss” of the opposition.
Following the meeting at TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s residence, Bandopadhyay said that in the coming days, the party would hold deliberations with “powerful regional parties” to formulate a strategy to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
“We will go our own way, maintain distance from the Congress and the BJP. We are not talking about forming any third front at the moment… The Congress should not feel that it is the big boss of the opposition front,” he told reporters.
“Mamata Banerjee will meet powerful regional parties to fight the BJP,” Bandopadhyay added.
Akhilesh Yadav, too, had similar comments. He said that his party would maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP and that it would stand firmly with TMC chief Mamata Banerjee.
“In Bengal, we are with Mamata didi. Right now, our stand is that we want to maintain equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress,” he said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of his party’s workers’ meet.
“The Samajwadi Party is ready to make any sacrifice to protect our Constitution. If we can defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP can be defeated across the country,” he added.
Courtesy Indian Express