The stage is set for Mamata Banerjee's mega show of opposition strength on Saturday -- in fact, it is looking packed. Now, another big name has been added to the guest list, Satish Mishra, the general secretary of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party. Mr Mishra will be standing in for the BSP chief, who is unable to attend the rally in Kolkata.
For Mamata Banerjee, it is a huge feather in the cap -- "almost as good as Mayawati herself coming to the rally," said a Trinamool leader who did not wish to be named.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is not attending the rally -- the party will be represented by Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
The latter is a Rajya Sabha MP elected from Bengal with support from the Trinamool. Mamata Banerjee had earlier clarified that Sonia Gandhi would not attend the rally as she is unwell. She had not mentioned Rahul Gandhi.
The moot question is what the rally is hoping to achieve: A strong expression of intent to jointly take on the BJP by the entire anti-BJP opposition just weeks before the poll dates are announced mid-February. It will probably be the first and the last such opposition rally before the poll date is known.
The rally is also an indirect message to the Congress that this formation of opposition parties will fight separately and that it could win more seats than the Congress. That means it is the opposition formation that could decide on the candidate for prime minister's post.
Recently MK Stalin, leader of Tamil Nadu's opposition DMK, had said Rahul Gandhi was the best opposition candidate for the job. It led to a chorus of protests from other opposition parties, which claimed it has to be a post-poll decision.
In West Bengal, the Congress and the Trinamool are bitter rivals.
The party's state leadership has consistently urged Rahul Gandhi not to go for any coalition with Mamata Banerjee. Rahul Gandhi appears to have given that sentiment greater weight, at least till the bargaining is done between the two parties over the number of Lok Sabha seats Mamata Banerjee agrees to give.
Missing from the dais on Saturday will be three opposition parties -- the TRS led by Mr K Chandrasekhar Rao, Jagan Mohan Reddy's party and the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik.
"No loss since," said a Trinamool leader. "At least the battle lines are clearly drawn."
The role of three rebel BJP leaders - Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha -- will also be keenly watched.
Those expected to attend include former prime minister HD Devegowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy; Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Pawar and Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav.
The mega-rally will be attended by lakhs of Trinamool workers. The Brigade Parade Ground, the most prestigious venue for political muscle flexing, accommodates about 5 lakh people.
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