- Mamata Banerjee visited top leaders who reached Kolkata on Friday
- 25 top leaders will be on stage at Brigade Parade Ground on Saturday
- The country wants a change in government, says Akhilesh Yadav
The stage is set for Mamata Banerjee's mega rally for a mahagathbandhan of political parties to take on the BJP. At least 20 top regional party leaders will throw down the gauntlet for the BJP ahead of the general elections. "The country wants a change in government," said SP leader Akhilesh Yadav immediately after he landed in Kolkata.
"I want to congratulate Mamata Banerjee that she has called together all the netas and sent out a message to the people of the country. The country wants change, it wants a new government. Farmers, small businessmen, students - they are all fed up with the current government. From Didi's platform, the message for change will go out" the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister added.
Mamata Banerjee herself spent several hours this evening visiting top leaders put up at different hotels in the city. "They are senior leaders. I wanted to meet them before the rally," she said.
But easily the cherry on the cake was an early morning email from Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Mamata Banerjee stating he fully supported her effort at uniting the anti-BJP parties.
"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 wrote.
"Rahul Gandhi's message to us is very important," said Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, adding, "We are all together in the fight against BJP."
Earlier, the Congress was sending two emissaries to the rally - Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. While Mamata Banerjee said Sonia Gandhi was unwell, Rahul Gandhi was all set to skip the meeting. This is perhaps because the state Congress relations with the Trinamool are very strained.
But yesterday, Mamata Banerjee's comments and the participation of other opposition leaders may have led to a change of stand. Ms Banerjee said, "I don't know what the Congress will do but BJP won't get more than 125 seats. In any case, it is the regional parties that will decide who governs the country."
Yesterday, Ms Banerjee's mahagathbandhan cake got some very welcome icing. The BSP confirmed the participation of Mayawati's right hand man, Satish Sharma who is the general secretary of the party.
As of now, 25 top leaders will be present on stage tomorrow at Brigade Parade Ground, Kolkata's prestige venue for political muscle flexing that can hold around 7 lakh people, according to the police. Trinamool has claimed 40 lakh people will attend the biggest political rally of this century.
Among the first to come in besides Akhilesh Yadav were Gegong Apang, former Arunachal chief minister and BJP leader, MK Stalin, Arun Shourie, Sharad Yadav and Sharad Pawar.
Asked who the next prime minister might be, HD Deve Gowda, former prime minister, said, "That will be decided by regional parties. Madam Mamata Banerjee has made a huge effort to bring all the opposition leaders together."