Kolkata: Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be visiting Odisha next week to meet her counterpart and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik at a time the TMC has been distancing itself from the Congress, ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the country.
While the meeting is being seen as the TMC’s outreach to regional parties, the party has refused to call it an attempt to form a third front. “We are not forming a third front at the moment. Our party head, Mamata Banerjee, will begin talks with regional parties that have the ability to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” said TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay while addressing a news conference Friday after a key party meeting chaired by Banerjee at her Kolkata residence.
The party also reiterated its stand on the Congress. “At this moment, there is no way we will talk to the Congress. There is no question. You can also see this on the floor of the House in Lok Sabha,” Bandopadhyay said.
Hours ago, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav had met Banerjee for an hour at her residence ahead of his party’s national convention in the city beginning Saturday. Neither the TMC nor the SP has spoken to the media or issued a statement about the meeting which was also attended by TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee, and Firhad Hakim, and SP’s Shivpal Yadav.
Banerjee is all set to visit New Delhi early April where she will hold meetings with more leaders, including AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal.
However, the BJP does not seem to be taking the TMC’s attempt to strike a new political equation seriously. Speaking to the media in Kolkata Friday, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari said, “In January 2019 (ahead of the Lok Sabha elections), Mamata Banerjee stood at the centre with all the Opposition leaders in Brigade Parade ground but Narendra Modi won the elections. This time, the BJP will cross the 400 mark.”
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No truck with Congress
The TMC has skipped all the Opposition meetings called by the Congress in the Parliament in the ongoing budget session, choosing instead to hold its own protests on various issues.
Sources within the TMC told ThePrint that the Congress has been extending an invitation for the Opposition meetings in the Parliament but the TMC has chosen to stay away.
According to political analyst Udayan Bandopadhayay, the TMC’s effort to reorganise regional forces is politically significant but could not be strong enough to take on the BJP. “If you see the numbers, this seems very unrealistic for the 2024 fight. However, it’s politically significant. Mamata Banerjee is stringing together the regional parties and that’s sending out a message,” he told ThePrint.
The TMC-Congress ties have soured for a while now. Speaking to ThePrint, TMC Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said, “The Congress in Delhi is saying they will fight the BJP but in West Bengal, they have joined hands with the Left and the BJP to fight us. This can’t be tolerated. Ideologically, the party has failed.”
On 2 March, the TMC lost the bypoll in West Bengal’s Sagardighi to the candidate backed by the Congress and Left. It was Trinamool’s first electoral loss since the 2021 assembly elections.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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