In what could be a major game changer in opposition unity, Mamata Banerjee today buried the hatchet with her bitter political foes in West Bengal, at least partially, and made a public commitment to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Congress and the CPM to take on the BJP at the centre in the general elections.
"In the coming days, we will fight unitedly. Whatever our fight with Congress and CPM, it will be in the state. At the national level, we will all fight together," Ms Banerjee said, adding, "For greater interest of the nation, I am ready to sacrifice my life, I am ready to sacrifice my party, I am ready to sacrifice everything."
The Trinamool leader's latest formula for opposition unity was announced at the 'Save the Constitution' platform in New Delhi's Jantar Mantar and came hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi walked up to Trinamool lawmakers on dharna on the grounds of parliament this morning against the BJP government.
Till today, the Trinamool and the Congress had kept a reciprocal distance from each other, turning the mahagathbandhan into an anti-BJP as well as non-Congress front.
But today saw many firsts.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI's D Raja shared the stage with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at Jantar Mantar. They left before Ms Banerjee was expected onstage at 3 pm. But they have never come so close to sharing a stage ever before.
The other first was Trinamool lawmakers protesting outside parliament and adopting Rahul Gandhi's slogan against Prime Minister Modi: "Chowkidar chor hai". It was only on Saturday that Mamata Banerjee had given cognizance to the Congress fight against PM Modi on the Rafale issue.
Chalking out a draft plan for the battle ahead, Ms Banerjee reiterated the need to field one opposition candidate against the BJP candidate. "Fight where you are strong," she said. "Nothing will happen to me. We are used to fighting Congress, BJP, CPM. They all fight together. Even if we have an understanding, they will not do a vote transfer, that is their habit. However had they fight, I will get 42 on 42 seats."
Ms Banerjee's claim may sound tall but she is a formidable political fighter. Her Trinamool Congress ended the 34-year rule of the Left Front in Bengal. The Trinamool has reduced Ms Banerjee's parent party, the Congress into a "signboard" in Bengal. There is no love lost between the two sides and, this morning, in parliament, senior Congress lawmaker from Bengal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, launched a scathing attack on the Trinamool over the Saradha Ponzi scheme. Alleged links with the Ponzi scams has led to the arrest of several Trinamool leaders who are now out on bail. The CBI investigation into the matter had triggered her latest flashpoint with the centre.
Mr Chowdhury's remarks were at the bottom of her heated exchange with the former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Parliament today. Ms Banerjee is known to share a good equation with the UPA chairperson. But today, when they met at parliament's Central Hall, the upset Chief Minister said, "We will remember". "We are accusing each other but we are friends," Sonia Gandhi had said.
Ms Banerjee's announcement is part of the opposition's efforts to put behind their differences and come together for a common cause.
Last year, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, the self-appointed interlocutor of the opposition, had turned his back to three decades of political rivalry and reached out to the Congress. In various media interviews, Mr Naidu has admitted that it was a political compulsion.
Though there has been no big announcement, the Congress and Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, whose differences are well known, are also trying to work together.
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