TMC’s game on, pitches Mamata as 2019 face

Days after Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president and his party’s impressive show in Gujarat, Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday pitched its chief Mamata Banerjee as a possible face for the Opposition in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The surprising comments from senior TMC leaders came as the Gujarat results gave Congress and other Opposition parties reasons to cheer while Rahul earning more respect as a “serious player” even as Sonia Gandhi is taking a back seat.

Strains were also visible among Opposition parties since the start of Winter Session of Parliament as TMC is not seen lending its vocal power to Congress in its protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his comments against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over attending a dinner meeting where Pakistani leaders were present.

While Banerjee has a good equation with Sonia, several senior Opposition leaders had earlier expressed reservations about dealing with Rahul.

TMC’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien said Banerjee has the best credentials to take on the BJP in 2019 as she has four decades of experience in politics, was Cabinet Minister multiple times and returned to power with a thumping majority in West Bengal.

“Bengal will play an important role in the 2019 polls and will play the lead role after the elections,” O’Brien told reporters.

In what TMC leaders projected as “significant”, Gujarat youth leaders Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, who won his constituency as an independent with Congress support, telephoned Banerjee and had “pleasant discussions”.

Though O’Brien refrained from naming Banerjee as the “Prime Ministerial face”, his remark that she has “experience, credibility and credentials” is read as positioning against the new Congress chief, amid speculation that he may replace his mother as UPA Chairperson too.

TMC leaders try to play down any differences with Congress but emphasise that they have their own priorities in Parliament and want to raise issues like Aadhaar and unemployment among others.

While Congress is going ahead with its protest against Modi, O’Brien said they will all use opportunities in Parliament to raise issues and that they “think Parliament should function”. However, he hastened to add that they were not opposing Congress from raising their issues.

Another leader from an Opposition party also said that Congress has not reached out to others on the issue.

(Dec 20, 2017)


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