Mamata Banerjee Set To Campaign For Priyanka Gandhi In Wayanad: Sources

Party sources said Ms Banerjee had also called for Ms Gandhi contesting against PM Modi from Varanasi.

Mamata Banerjee Set To Campaign For Priyanka Gandhi In Wayanad: Sources

Ms Gandhi will be making her electoral debut.

Sending out a strong signal that all is well between the Trinamool Congress and the INDIA alliance following the pre-election acrimony, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is ready to campaign for Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is set to make her electoral debut from Wayanad, party sources have said.

The Trinamool Congress sources said that not only is Ms Banerjee willing to campaign for Ms Gandhi, but she had also suggested during an INDIA alliance meeting last December that the Congress leader should contest against PM Narendra Modi from Varanasi - an idea that has also been floated within the Congress as early as 2019. 

Ms Gandhi will be fighting from Wayanad when a bypoll is held there, after Rahul Gandhi decided to vacate the seat and retain the family bastion of Raebareli. He had won the Wayanad constituency for the second time, by a margin of 3.6 lakh votes, in the just-concluded elections. 

Part of the reason behind the rekindled bonhomie between Ms Banerjee and the Congress is the fact that Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, one of the Bengal chief minister's strongest critics, has lost from the Baharampur Lok Sabha constituency in these elections after five straight victories. 

While Ms Banerjee and the Gandhis are known to share a close bond, Mr Chowdhury's acerbic and often personal barbs at the chief minister have been a source of friction between the Trinamool and the Congress. They were also seen as a factor behind her decision to go it alone in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections - a move that paid off, with the Trinamool fending off an all-out challenge by the BJP and winning 29 of the state's 42 constituencies. 

The sources said the "Adhir issue" has now been resolved and that the Trinamool had told the Congress that he would lose his seat. 

Enhanced Coordination 

Ahead of the Parliament session starting on Monday, which will see the opposition at its strongest since 2014, the sources said the Bengal Chief Minister has also sought better coordination among members of the INDIA alliance, who have won 232 Lok Sabha seats between them. 

Signs of this happening have already begun, with the Trinamool, the Congress and the DMK opposing the implementation of the three new criminal laws - Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, which will replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively. 

The opposition has claimed that the laws were passed without consultation during the Monsoon session of Parliament last year, when over 140 MPs were suspended. In a letter to the Prime Minister on Friday, Ms Banerjee pushed for a fresh review of the laws by Parliament.

"The outgoing government of yours had passed these three critical bills unilaterally, and with absolutely no debate. That day, almost 100 members of the Lok Sabha had been suspended and a total 146 MPs of the both Houses were thrown out of Parliament," Ms Banerjee wrote, adding that the three bills were passed in an "authoritarian manner" in a "dark hour of democracy". 

Chandigarh MP and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari has also hit out at the government over the implementation of the laws. 

"The new criminal laws that come into effect from July 1st 2024 lay the foundations of turning India into a Police State. Their implementation must be stopped forthwith and Parliament must re-examine them," he posted on X.

Another issue that the opposition is likely to try and corner the government over is the NEET and NET exam fiasco. Protests have erupted across the country over irregularities in NEET and the cancellation of the UGC-NET, both of which are conducted by the National Testing Agency.