By Rahil Nora Chopra
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at 10 Janpath on Wednesday, 28 July, is being keenly watched by political observers all over the country. It’s obvious that Banerjee is keen on assuming a national role and to formulate a pan-India strategy to take on the BJP in the 2024 general elections. Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi, the meetings during the West Bengal chief minister’s visit also included her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and senior Congress leaders such as Anand Sharma, Kamal Nath, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Banerjee also indicated her openness towards part-time NDA allies, including the BJD and YSRCP, which have been on the fence when it comes to the Narendra Modi government. She accused the Centre of being vindictive towards Bengal and did not let go of the opportunity to take a dig over the Pegasus controversy. With her victory over the BJP in the Bengal assembly election, Banerjee has significantly elevated her position among the opposition rank and file. Regional parties and leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, DMK chief MK Stalin, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav, Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal may all support her candidature for the united oppositional Prime Ministerial candidate against Narendra Modi. The speculation is rife that Mamata Banerjee is in touch with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and she is trying to persuade Nitish to leave the BJP alliance in Bihar and join hands with RJD. If Banerjee can stitch a robust fabric for a secular, anti-BJP opposition, she’d prove her formidable mettle outside of her home turf, West Bengal.
WOULD CHANDRASHEKHAR AZAD JOIN HANDS WITH AKHILESH YADAV?
The Dalit activist Chandra Shekhar Azad, head of the Bhim Army, could be heating up the Uttar Pradesh 2022 assembly elections under the banner of his newly-created Azad Samaj Party. Azad has already plunged headlong into the campaign and his cycle yatras are criss-crossing the state these days. Chandra Shekhar’s aides say that he may not contest the elections this time but will ensure that his party gets ample Dalit support, a move that could be directly lead to dent the Dalit vote share of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party. Moreover, Azad has expressed his willingness to join hands with the Samajwadi Party (SP) or any other secular political outfit opposed to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. According to political observers, if Azad and Akhilesh join hands, then the Yadav-Muslim-Dalit combination can be reignited, which has been quite successful in UP until Hindutva started reaping dividends in the northern state.
CHAUTALA WANTS TO ROPE IN NITISH, MAMATA FOR THIRD FRONT
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) president Om Prakash Chautala will soon be contacting opposition leaders to forge a third front at the national level and also revealed plans to have a lunch meeting with BJP ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on August 1. On his part, Nitish Kumar had spoken to Chautala over the phone to enquire about his well-being, and keep the heartland leader in good books. But Chautala is keeping his options open. For TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Chautala has only kind words, insisting that he has good relations going back to several years with her. Chautala also said that the official announcement of the third front will be made on Chaudhary Devi Lal’s birth anniversary on September 25.
TEJASHWI PLACATES RJD’S MIFFED BIHAR CHIEF
All is not well within the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Jagadanand Singh, the Bihar unit president of Rashtriya Janata Dal had resigned, leaving the party in a lurch. Jagadanand was apparently annoyed because an MLA sat in his chair at the party headquarters in Patna, that too, while he was present. The incident allegedly had the support of Lalu’s eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav. Meanwhile, the reports of differences between the party leaders surfaced after RJD’s 25th foundation day celebrations. During the event, Tej Pratap appealed to all the leaders present on the stage, including seniors, to raise their hands to show their solidarity. However, Jagadanand Singh didn’t show much interest in Tej Pratap’s call. “Jagadanand uncle may be angry with me,” Tej Pratap responded then. Sensing trouble, Lalu’s younger son Tejashwi Yadav took the initiative to bridge the differences. It must be noted that Lalu Prasad had not accepted Jagadanand’s resignation.
RAHUL BRINGS FARMERS’ MESSAGE TO PARLIAMENT
Thousands of farmers have been protesting since November at Delhi’s borders, seeking repeal of the farm laws and a new law to guarantee minimum support price, or MSP, for crops. Now, they are running a ‘Kisan Sansad’ at Jantar Mantar, peasants’ parallel to the monsoon session of Parliament. To show solidarity with farmers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi drove a tractor to Parliament and asked the government to repeal the farm laws at the earliest. Rahul Gandhi said: “I’ve brought farmers’ message to Parliament. They (Government) are suppressing voices of farmers and not letting a discussion take place in Parliament. They’ll have to repeal these black laws. The entire country knows these laws favour 2-3 big businessmen. As per government, farmers are very happy and those (protesting farmers) sitting outside are terrorists. But in reality, farmers’ rights are being snatched away.” Congress general secretary, Randeep Surjewala, Youth Congress chief, Srinivas BV, and other party workers too were detained by the police, allegedly for breaking restrictions under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. (IPA Service)