New Delhi: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) Tuesday inducted three new leaders — Kirti Azad, Ashok Tanwar and Pavan K. Varma, all former MPs — into the party as part of its efforts to go national.
While Azad, a former cricketer, has been in both the Congress and the BJP, Tanwar is a former Haryana Congress chief once known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Varma is a former Janata Dal (United) leader who was removed from the party in 2020 alongside Prashant Kishor, whose political consultancy I-PAC counts the TMC as a client.
All three leaders described TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who inducted them into the party in Delhi, as the only viable alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mamata arrived in Delhi Monday evening for a four-day trip with a fairly large contingent.
In an address to supporters at the official residence of Lok Sabha MP and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who is her nephew, Mamata promised to visit Haryana very soon.
“Tanwar saab has come to us with a lot of people. Your family is my family now. I came to you to say he is not alone, we will take everybody along,” she said. “You go back and start work. He will also be going to Goa. He will also come to Kolkata. Then he will go all across Haryana. I will come to Haryana once you are ready. Close to my house. No difference in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab,” Mamata added.
Earlier in the day, former Rajya Sabha MP Javed Akhtar and political analyst Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former aide of BJP veteran L.K. Advani, also held “courtesy meetings” with Mamata.
‘Mamata only leader capable of leading country’
Tanwar was once considered part of Rahul’s “babalog” brigade, or the young leaders of the party. Among the other members of that group was Jyotiraditya Scindia, now with the BJP and a Union minister, and former Rajasthan deputy CM Sachin Pilot. Another young Congress leader, former MP Sushmita Dev, joined the Trinamool in August. She is leading the party’s change in Tripura alongside Abhishek Banerjee.
After joining the TMC, Tanwar said the “entire country is feeling tortured by the Bharatiya Janata Party”.
“I have been associated with student politics. Circumstances have now become such that the only leadership capable of leading this country is Mamata di,” he added.
“She gave them a solid defeat some months back (in Bengal assembly elections). Farmers brought this arrogant government to its knees. The PM realised his mistake after taking the lives of 700 people. Even if he apologises 365 times, that will not be enough. The entire Opposition needs to come together to fight them.”
Varma said he had “no doubt that the Trinamool will become a national alternative”.
“After leaving the JD(U), I thought a strong Opposition is always required. The central government should face a strong Opposition in democracy. I think Mamata Banerjee stands as a credible Opposition,” he added. “So, I joined Mamata Banerjee’s party. I hope Mamata Banerjee will be at the national level in 2024.”
He sidestepped a question about who will be PM candidate in 2024, given that senior JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar was once touted to be a candidate.
“Nitish Kumar has been very kind to me. My distance with him was based on principles, and had to do with the CAA, NRC. Prashant Kishor (former vice-president of the JDU) and I were removed on the same day,” he said.
Varma and Kishor were removed from the JD(U) for speaking out against Nitish’s support for the CAA in January 2020, when street protests were on across the country against the controversial legislation. The law provides for fast-tracking citizenship to minorities Muslim-majority Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Azad said he would be with the Trinamool for the rest of his political life. “I will work in her leadership till I retire. Will match steps with her. People like her — who can show the country a new and right way — are the need of the hour,” he added. “She is a grassroots leader who has fought for the people. I have played for my country. I don’t have caste or religion. When I played I played for my team. I will work with her to end the division that people are making in my country.”
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)