Chandan Mitra, who recently quit the BJP and joined Trinamool Congress has said that the face of the united opposition against the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary elections, "has to come from a regional party." Mr Mitra was speaking at the panel discussion moderated by NDTV at the launch of Kapil Sibal's book "Shades of Truth - A Journey Derailed" on Friday.
"Today unless a leader is established in his or her territorial domain, it will be difficult for him or her to stake claim to the Prime Minister's chair. Nobody will consider him. In future if there is a non-BJP or non-Congress alliance, or even if the Congress party is part of the agreement, the leader has to come from a regional party," said Mr Mitra.
The prospect of a united opposition against the BJP in 2019 was the moot point of the discussion, where the panelists - Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Sitaram Yechury, Chandan Mitra and Sharad Yadav - agreed that an anti- BJP alliance would be vital. Indian elections are based on ideologies and not personalities, the key opposition leaders said underscoring that in 2019 the general elections will be a "Modi vs India" affair.
On the question of who will be the prime ministerial candidate against Mr Modi, all the panelists, except Mr Mitra said that a prime ministerial face is not important. Former JD(U) lawmaker Sharad Yadav recounted a series of elections where a joint coalition had formed the government, without declaring their prime ministerial candidate in advance.
"But, much water has flown through the Yamuna since the time you are talking about," countered Mr Mitra, who said the voters are much more aware today and therefore a prime ministerial candidate is important, whose credentials are well established.
Responding to question from the audience on Rahul Gandhi, Mr Sibal said the Congress president has made it clear that he is ready to take on Mr Modi, so there is no question of "whether or not he is up for it". When asked whether the PM candidate will be from Congress, the former HRD minister said, "I don't know. We will see whatever emerges at that point of time. That is something people will decide."