Opposition parties swore to defeat the BJP together in the Lok Sabha polls.
Kolkata: Around 23 opposition parties came together at the "United India Rally" organised by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today to reiterate their resolve to defeat the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The event -- held at Kolkata's Brigade Parade Grounds and attended by lakhs of people -- saw the participation of Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, DMK chief MK Stalin, National Conference head Farooq Abdullah and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, among other prominent political faces. Charges ranging from non-transparency in the Rafale deal to alleged religious intolerance were levelled against the BJP as one political leader after another took the dais, and Ms Banerjee wrapped up the event by heralding the "expiry date" of the Modi government. She also claimed that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to double farmers' income by 2022, it has already been tripled in Bengal. PM Modi, however, dismissed the rally by saying that the opposition parties were uniting to save "their families, their empires".
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The Trinamool Congress chief, who took the stage in the end, said this wasn't the time to speculate on the united opposition's prime ministerial candidate. "We will figure that out later. The need of the hour is to defeat Narendra Modi and the BJP," she asserted. Ms Banerjee said that the BJP was finally on the backfoot after "looting" the country for years, and their "Achhe Din" will not be back no matter what promises they make.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, whose arrival at the venue was delayed, described PM Modi as a "factory, wholesaler and distributor of lies". "Just understand one thing: If you're a chowkidaar, the people are thaanedaars (superior officers). They will punish you if you do anything wrong," he said.
Rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha targeted PM Modi's alleged silence on the Rafale deal at the mega rally. "The opposition only has a few questions for you about the agreement. But until you answer them, the public will continue to say that chowkidaar chor hai (the watchman is a thief)," he said, adding that he does not fear being thrown out by his party.
Telugu Desam Party leader Chandrababu Naidu, in his address to the public, alleged that PM Modi is all talk and no action when it comes to serving the country. "This PM is a publicity PM, but we want a performing PM," he said. "The BJP gave slogans -- Jan Dhan, Mudra Loan, Good Governance, Smart Cities, Two Crore Jobs, Acche Din -- but did anything come out of them?"
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge wondered why PM Modi had promised two crore jobs every year in the run-up to the previous Lok Sabha elections when "destroying whatever employment remained" was all he meant to do. "Modi said na khaunga, na khane doonga (won't eat, won't let you eat either), but he's giving to corporates. To save secular values, we need to stand united. We need to walk together," he said.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal claimed that while the BJP has certain achievements to its credit, they are decidedly dubious in nature. "What Pakistan could not do in the last 70 years, the Narendra Modi government did in five. It divided the society, pitting one religion against another. And that is why we need to get rid of the Modi-Shah partnership," he said. He also slammed government initiatives such as demonetisation and agricultural insurance in his address.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav rejected the BJP's argument that a grand alliance made up of so many disparate groups will not be able to choose a common face. "Today, I tell them that the face will be one chosen by the people. You have many groups in your alliance too, and that includes the CBI and the ED, but we have allied with the people," he said, adding that the ruling party was trying to "poison" the society.
DMK leader MK Stalin used the platform to remind the public about the Modi government's unfulfilled promises. "Did Modi transfer the Rs 15 lakh he promised to everybody's account? Instead, he flew around the world while prices of petrol, diesel and groceries skyrocketed here. This is a corporate government, and it's being run like a private firm," he claimed.
As part of the security arrangements, the venue was divided into 22 zones to manage the massive gathering. Police officers of the deputy commissioner rank, besides 3,000 party volunteers, are present at each such zone to control the crowds.
PM Modi, however, rejected the move by opposition parties to form a grand alliance. "They might form tie-ups to save their family, their empire, but they can't run away from their misdeeds," he said.