AMN / Kolkata
In a major show of strength against ruling BJP at centre, 23 opposition parties came together on Saturday at a mega rally organised by Mamata Banerjee of TMC to vow to put up a united fight in the coming Lok Sabha elections and oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power.
Over 20 leaders, including two from the Congress, attended the show of unity organised by Trinamool Chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The BJP government has crossed its expiry date, she said.
The leaders called for putting the differences between the parties aside and said they can decide on the issue of prime minister’s post after the elections. Some suggested that the opposition should aim at putting up a joint candidate against the BJP nominee in every constituency.
They also decided to hold more joint rallies ahead of the elections, which are to be held by May. The next public meetings will be in New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh capital Amravati.
The two top Congress leaders, party president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, skipped the Kolkata rally. But the party was represented by Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Kharge, who is leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, read a message from Sonia Gandhi wishing success to the rally. HD Deve Gowda (Janata Dal-Secular), Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Farooq Abdullah (National Conference) and M K Stalin (DMK) were among the top leaders at the rally.
In the historic rally, lakhs of people from all over the country joined the galaxy of National Leaders of United India to take pledge to save the country, protect democracy, preserve federal structure and to build a stronger, progressive and united India” said Mamata Banerjee
The BJP government has crossed its expiry date. We all have to fight together to ensure that they are defeated, Banerjee, the last speaker, said. The issue of prime ministership won’t be a problem, she added.
“Modi Babu’s expiry date is over,” thundered Mamata Banerjee, speaking right at the end. “You know every medicine has an expiry date. The expiry date of the BJP is over.”
Ms Banerjee guests did not disappoint. From Hardik Patel, the first speaker, to Tejashwi Yadav, the penultimate one, the attack against the ruling party was ferocious.
“In the last 70 years, Pakistan’s dream was to somehow break up this country, divide the country. What Pakistan failed to do in 70 years, Modi and Amit Shah did in five,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “If they win the elections in 2019, India will change. They will change the constitution, they will stop elections. I shudder to think. But having come to this rally, I am sure their good days are over.”
Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader, was also scathing in his criticism of the government. “The BJP has 40 allies. As the polls approach, you are making allies of the CBI and Enforcement Department also. But we are making an alliance with the people, and in a democracy, the people have the last word,” he said.
Mr Yadav also did some political arithmetic. “In Tamil Nadu, they will get zero. It will happen in Bengal too, and after the BSP-SP tie-up on January 12, the BJP is wondering how they will even get a single seat,” he said.
Some of the most biting attacks against the BJP came from of its own. Former Union Minister Arun Shourie slammed the Modi administration, saying: “There is no debate that this government has to go. No government has lied so much, no government has destroyed institutions, no government has neglected the defence sector more. The corruption in Rafael is the biggest.”
And then, for good measure, he added, “Demonetisation was a lunatic idea.”
BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha raised the Rafale question. “I am not saying that anyone is guilty, I am not saying anyone is innocent, but if you keep suppressing the truth, then people are bound to say that chowkidar chor hai.”
The Congress gave up trying to maintain some distance from Ms Banerjee’s initiative. MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi praised her move and termed the BJP as a “vengeful” government. Party leader Mallikarjun Kharge read out a message from Sonia Gandhi, which said that 2019 was not going to be an ordinary election.