West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to visit New Delhi later this month where she will hold talks with leaders of non-BJP parties, sparking off speculation once again over the formation of an anti-BJP front ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Sources in the ruling TMC said on Thursday (July 15) that Banerjee will head to the national capital on July 25. It could happen any day after the Martyr’s Day rally in Kolkata on July 21.
The TMC holds a rally every year to commemorate the killing of 13 people in the police firing on Youth Congress workers on July 21, 1993, during a protest led by Banerjee, who was then its leader.
The talk of an anti-BJP front gained momentum after leaders of various parties and prominent individuals congregated at Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s New Delhi residence last month. However, there has been no development after the meeting hosted by Pawar and called by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who is now in the TMC.
Sinha, a former BJP stalwart, has turned into a strident critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Election strategist Prashant Kishor’s meetings with Pawar and the Gandhis, including the one he had with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Vadra together, too have strengthened the rumours about an anti-BJP coalition.
“Banerjee is likely to visit New Delhi after the 21st July Martyr’s Day rally. She may give details about her visit during her speech. The date is yet to be fixed but it will be after the rally,” sources told PTI.
Banerjee, who is likely to spend a few days in the national capital, has apparently timed her visit to coincide with the monsoon session of Parliament as senior leaders of opposition parties will be in town.
However, Banerjee told the media at a press conference that there was nothing unusual in her visit.
“Every time after elections I visit Delhi to meet old and new friends. So, this time too, I would be going to Delhi for a few days as the COVID-19 situation is presently under control,” she said.
“Mamata didi has further grown in stature after defeating the BJP in the assembly elections. She now wants to reach out to anti-BJP and non-BJP parties at the national level ahead of the 2024 general elections,” a TMC leader said.
He said Banerjee will, in all probability, meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, her Delhi counterpart and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal and Sharad Pawar during the visit.
Kishor, who crafted Narendra Modi’s 2012 Gujarat assembly campaign and devised his successful prime ministerial bid in 2014, is also being credited for drawing up the TMC’s strategy that saw Banerjee triumph over the formidable BJP in the West Bengal polls.
The astute election manager also rendered his services to AAP in Delhi, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and, more recently, M K Stalin’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu with great success.
Even as the redoubtable Banerjee may seek a larger role in national politics, she hopes to get the help of Kishor, who has a personal equation with a host of opposition leaders. After her resounding win against the BJP, she is in a position to try to become the rallying point for anti-BJP parties.
“This is the first step towards reaching out to them,” the TMC leader said.