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Rahul backs Bengal rally in show of unity

Gandhi’s message signals the hope for a national-level alliance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite the Congress’s Bengal unit and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) not being on the best of terms.

Updated: Jan 18, 2019 23:10:20

By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Kolkata

Rahul Gandhi’s letter to Mamata Banerjee extending support to the TMC rally in Bengal comes after the Congress’s apparent setback in forming an alliance with SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times) (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

A day before West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s mega-rally at the Brigade Parade ground, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday sent her a letter of “support”, possibly in an effort to showcase the unity among opposition parties ahead of the April-May general election.

“Across India, there are powerful forces afoot. Forces that are fanned by the anger and disappointment of hundreds of millions of Indians who have seen through the false promises and lies peddled by the Modi Government,” Gandhi wrote.

“These forces are moved by the hope of a new tomorrow; a tomorrow filled with the idea of an India in which the voice of every man, woman and child will be heard and respected no matter what their religion, economic status or region,” he added.

Gandhi’s message signals the hope for a national-level alliance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite the Congress’s Bengal unit and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) not being on the best of terms.

“The entire opposition is united in our belief that true nationalism and development can only be defended on the tested pillars of democracy, social justice and secularism, ideas that the BJP and Mr Modi are intent on destroying,” Gandhi wrote to Banerjee. “We commend the great people of Bengal who have historically been at the forefront of defending our ideals. I extend my support to Mamata Di on this show of unity and hope that we send a powerful message of a united India together,” he concluded. Gandhi’s letter comes after what appears to be a setback to his party in forging an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress, however, continues to be hopeful that after the general election, all non-NDA parties will come together to form an alternative government.

Political analysts said Congress presence at the Brigade rally may seem to be a damper for its Bengal unit’s plans for a seat-sharing deal with the Left Front, led by Communist Party of India (Marxist), in the state.

At the mega rally to be attended by leaders such as SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejaswi Yadav and others, Gandhi will send Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal, to represent the party.

“It’s good for us. People of Bengal now know which the real force against TMC’s atrocious regime is,” BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh said. “Congress will be in no position to play spoilsport by dividing anti-TMC votes in Bengal.”

“Over the past five years, Trinamool has eaten into the state Congress badly. The party will become irrelevant in the state soon,” Ghosh added.

The Congress, which won four of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, won 44 Assembly seats in the 2016 elections. But it has lost as many as 17 of its MLAs to the ruling party so far.

State Congress chief Somen Mitra, however, said, “Rahul Gandhi has been supporting every initiative against the BJP. This is based on the same principle. The national perspective is different from the perspectives in different states. Rahul Gandhi has also welcomed the alliance between SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh but that has not restricted us from fighting SP and BSP in the state.” “The presence of the Congress’s national leaders on Mamata Banerjee’s dais will have no effect on the state unit’s opposition to the TMC regime,” Mitra claimed.

“If the Congress and the Left come to a seat-sharing understanding, people would be confused to pick between them and the BJP as TMC’s main opponent. If they fight separately, BJP is more likely to emerge as the principal opposition to TMC in most seats,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College and a political science professor.

Left parties are boycotting Saturday’s rally arguing that they want to end Banerjee’s regime and would in no way support TMC’s cause.


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