Trinamool Congress will not allow the Congress to be the leader of the Opposition bloc, and will tread its own path.
Not only that, the party has announced that it will maintain equidistance with both the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Congress.
This mars all chances of Opposition unity in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, and gives a distinct advantage to the BJP.
Senior Trinamool leader and Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandopadhyay has said that the Congress should not consider itself to be the “big boss” of the Opposition camp.
The Trinamool Congress, he said, is the second largest Opposition party and a “considerable force to reckon with”.
Bandopadhyay was addressing reporters after a meeting of his party’s core committee that was presided over by party chief Mamata Banerjee on Friday afternoon.
The ekla chalo re (go it alone) path adopted by the Trinamool was firmed up at Friday’s meeting.
Senior party leaders who attended the meeting told Swarajya that Banerjee is peeved with the Congress for having entered into an alliance with the Left before the recent bypolls to the Sagardighi Assembly seat.
The Trinamool candidate’s defeat in the bypolls at the hands of the Left-backed Congress candidate has left Banerjee very angry. She is also annoyed with the Congress for assuming a leadership role in forging Opposition unity in Delhi.
“The Congress is a spent force and is losing one election after another. It has no moral right to project itself as the prime challenger to the BJP. It is the Trinamool which is putting up the fiercest opposition to the BJP,” a senior Trinamool leader, who is also a cabinet minister, told Swarajya.
Banerjee, said the Trinamool minister, has felt offended by what she perceives is a series of decisive snubs by the Congress leadership in recent times.
“The Congress leadership, especially the party’s new president Mallikarjun Kharge, does not take us into confidence on important matters and gives more importance to some other parties that are much smaller than us. This is done deliberately,” said the minister.
Banerjee feels that not only Kharge, even Rahul Gandhi has scant respect for her and taking a cue from him, other Congress leaders disregard her.
This was not the case when Sonia Gandhi was in effective charge of the party. Banerjee shares a warm relationship with Sonia Gandhi.
A prominent Rajya Sabha MP belonging to the Trinamool Congress cited the letter to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) piloted by the Congress and signed by some other Opposition parties asking the agency to probe allegations against the Adani Group.
“We were merely informed by the Congress about the letter and requested to sign it an hour before it was to be submitted to the ED. By that time, many in the media already knew that the Congress had drafted the letter. We take it as a deliberate insult,” the Rajya Sabha MP told Swarajya.
He said there were many other instances when his party was ignored and kept out of the loop by the Congress.
“They (the Congress) will join hands with the Left and even the BJP to fight against us in Bengal, Rahul Gandhi will level serious allegations against us and accuse us of acting in concert with the BJP, and then it will expect us to support it in its fight against the BJP at the Centre. That cannot happen,” said Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandopadhyay.
The Trinamool also feels that projecting Rahul Gandhi as the face of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha polls next year would provide a walkover to the BJP.
“If the Congress is allowed to become the leader of the combined Opposition, Rahul Gandhi will naturally become the face of the Opposition and will be pitted against Narendra Modi. This is exactly what the BJP wants because it will ensure a big win for that party (the BJP). Rahul Gandhi is the reason why the Congress loses elections, and he drives away even anti-BJP voters. He cannot be allowed to be the face of the Opposition, and so Congress cannot be allowed to become the leader of the combined Opposition,” explained Bandopadhyay.
Bandopadhyay said that the Trinamool will now try to forge unity among the non-BJP and non-Congress parties.
Banerjee will reach out to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and request him to be part of this bloc.
Banerjee will travel to New Delhi soon to hold discussions with leaders of other Opposition parties.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) may also be part of this ‘third front’, but very few other parties may be willing to be part of this Trinamool-led front.
The other important opposition parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (United), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and Telugu Desam Party have already stated explicitly that the Congress cannot be kept away from any efforts to forge Opposition unity and from a combined Opposition bloc.
That means they are most unlikely to join a Trinamool-led ‘third front’.
None of these parties want to be subservient to the Trinamool Congress and are opposed to Banerjee being projected as the Opposition’s prime ministerial candidate.
The leaders of some of these parties like the NCP, Shiv Sena (UT) and JD(U) harbour personal ambitions of becoming the prime minister and hold a dim view of Banerjee’s suitability for the top executive post in the country.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi also wants a non-Congress and non-BJP opposition bloc, but Rao is not willing to allow Banerjee to assume leadership of such a bloc.
He fancies himself as a future prime minister of the country.
The Congress scoffs at the Trinamool’s bid to project itself as a political player on the national stage.
“There cannot be any comparison between the Congress and the Trinamool. We are in power in three states and are the primary opposition party in many other states. The Trinamool does not have any presence outside Bengal and its attempts to gain a foothold in Goa and Tripura have failed. It has a marginal presence now in Meghalaya, but that cannot be attributed to Mamata Banerjee. The Trinamool Congress is a provincial party limited to Bengal,” said Congress Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Choudhury.
The Congress also feels that the Trinamool is in league with the BJP.
“The Trinamool fought against us in Goa and in Tripura and helped the BJP come to power in those two states. Trinamool candidates spoiled the prospects of Congress candidates in Meghalaya. It is the Trinamool that is helping the BJP,” said Meghalaya Congress MP Vincent Pala.
These intense rivalries, games of oneupmanship, power plays and ego battles between Opposition parties in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls next year preclude any possibility of Opposition parties joining ranks and posing a challenge to the BJP.
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