Mamata meets Sonia to forge united front

Wednesday 04th August 2021 07:31 EDT

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence last week, for the first time since the two parties fought as rivals in the assembly elections, as the Trinamool chief said there will be efforts for a unified opposition to take on BJP.

The meeting between the two leaders is a part of Mamata's series of outreach meetings in the national capital, including those with Congress leaders Kamal Nath, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Anand Sharma a day before. "It was a very good meeting,” Mamata said after the visit to 10 Janpath. Opposition leaders were likely to meet after Parliament’s monsoon session, she said, hoping for “a positive outcome”. The comments are significant as Mamata's ties with Sonia have been frosty for long, with the CM often accusing Congress of acting in provocative manner. Ahead of the 2019 election, she had said as much to Sonia during a chance meeting in the Central Hall of Parliament.

Congress sources said Sonia and Mamata had “free and fair discussions” on all issues in the country and issues inside Parliament. They also discussed how institutions were under attack under the Modi government. Sources said the two leaders share personal equations and this resulted in the meeting where no decisions were taken.

“I am not a political astrologer,” the Bengal CM said when asked whether she would lead a coalition of opposition parties. “It depends on the situation, structure. I have no problem if someone else leads (it). We can decide when the issue is discussed. I cannot impose (my will),” she added. “I have a sweet home in Bengal. I will stay there and do not plan to shift to Delhi now,” Mamata said adding: “I am nothing alone, everyone has to unite. I am not a leader but a cadre… a person on the street.” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was also present at the meeting at 10, Janpath. Describing the meeting as "very positive," and one that had a “positive outcome”, Mamata said she discussed the present political situation in the country, the Covid situation as well as opposition unity with the Congress leadership.

Mamata said she met Sonia Gandhi because she had invited her for tea at her residence. "Rahul ji was also there during the meeting. We discussed the country's political situation in general."

On the Pegasus snooping issue she said, “The snooping controversy and the Covid-19 situation also came up for discussion during her meeting with Sonia Gandhi. The government should reply on this issue in Parliament.” Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's allegation that opposition parties were not allowing Parliament to function, Mamata said, "Why does the government not answer our question on the Pegasus controversy? They should reply. Don't the people want to know? If debates and discussions won't happen in Parliament, then where would they take place?"

She said “Khela Hobey”, the TMC campaign line used in the Bengal polls, will now go national and “the game is still on”. “Khela hobey, aaj Parliament mein… phir pura desh mein khela hobey,” she said in reply to a question after the meeting.

Challenging the PM and BJP, the TMC chief said the 2024 Lok Sabha elections will see Modi pitted against the entire country. “Narendra Modi se fight hoga desh ka (Narendra Modi’s fight will be against the country),” she said when asked about who will be the challenger. In Delhi for the first time after the win, the Chief Minister has lined up meetings with several key opposition leaders.

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