New Delhi: It will be Modi vs the rest of India in 2024 and the opposition will create history, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Wednesday, setting the tone for opposition unity in the Lok Sabha elections.
“Poore desh me khela hoga. When general elections happen, it will be Modi vs country. This is our hope for 2024,” Banerjee said in a free-wheeling interaction with reporters in Delhi on the third day of her visit.
The West Bengal CM, however, remained non-committal about her role at the national level and said she has a “sweet home” in Bengal and would like to stay there.
“I don’t want to be a leader but a cadre. Let me be that. But I want to bell the cat; I want to help all. I am not a VIP but an LIP (Less Important Person),” Banerjee said when asked about her national role.
She said the situation on the ground is different now. “Every regional party is very strong today. If all of them are together, they will be stronger than BJP,” she said.
The West Bengal CM, on a strong footing after her party’s resounding victory in the assembly elections in May, reiterated that talks with various opposition leaders are going on but no final decision has been taken as yet on the opposition’s strategy for 2024.
“The Parliament session is on, so political parties and their leaders are busy. Once the session is over, we will sit together and decide. In a democracy, talks have to go on,” she said.
Asked who will become the leader of the opposition alliance, Banerjee said she is not a “political astrologer”.
“It depends on the situation. All of us can work together. Anybody can become a leader,” she said. “I don’t want to impose my opinion. After the Parliament session, opposition parties must meet.”
Following her interaction with the media, Banerjee met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and later Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
After meeting Gandhi, Banerjee said the former had invited her for tea and they discussed a host of issues including the need for the opposition to come together. “Rahulji was also present. We discussed the political situation in the country, Pegasus as well as Covid,” she said.
On the role the Congress will play in the coalition, Banerjee said Sonia also champions opposition unity. “Congress trusts the regional parties and regional parties trust Congress,” she said.
Banerjee said that she is hopeful that a positive result will come out in the future from all these discussions. She later met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
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‘Situation serious, worse than Emergency’
Banerjee was very critical of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government and its alleged role in the Pegasus controversy.
“The situation is very serious, more serious than Emergency,” the CM said.
She said her phone is already tapped. “If Abhishek’s (her nephew) phone is tapped and Prashant Kishor’s phone is tapped, and I am talking to them, automatically my phone is tapped too,” she said.
Banerjee said the government is taking action against whoever is trying to raise their voice, be it the media, judiciary or politicians.
“We sent some of our people to Tripura to study the ground situation and they have been put under house arrest,” the CM said referring to I-PAC team members who were sent to Agartala.
“See how the petrol and diesel prices have increased. The GDP in India now stands for Gas Diesel Petrol… The government is collecting money from the public but has no money for Covid-19 vaccines,” she added.
‘Enough of acche din, people want to see sachche din’
Banerjee said people now want to see “sacche din (days of truth)” as they have seen enough of “achhe din.”
Asked about assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh scheduled early next year, the West Bengal CM said things have changed for BJP, adding that people who have lost their near and dear ones to Covid-19 during the second wave won’t forgive the party.
“Narendra Modi was popular in 2019. People in UP have seen during the second wave how the state government had not kept a record of dead bodies, last rites were denied and bodies were thrown in Ganga river. People who have lost their loved ones will not forget and forgive,” she said.
Talking of the BJP’s humiliating defeat in Bengal, Banerjee said Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and other senior leaders of the party came to the state ‘like local train passengers’. “But the people of West Bengal gave them a 440-volt shock,” she said.
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