A mega rally by West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee in Kolkata on January 19 will seek to pose a united ‘anti-BJP’ front.
A number of leaders from the opposition are expected to be in attendance.
The rally has two objectives – show of strength for Mamta Banerjee and test of unity for the opposition
The challenge before this ‘Third Front’ is to provide a credible national narrative for governance.
West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee plans to address a mega rally at Parade Ground, Kolkata on January 19. The Trinamool Congress is targeting a turnout of around 15 lakh people for this rally.
The most anticipated participants are Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. But while the parties have confirmed attendance, the presence of leaders is not certain. Even the presence of Left parties like the CPM is not confirmed.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter of support to Mamta Banerjee for her United India rally. He stated in the letter, “The entire opposition is united in our belief that true nationalism and development can only be defended on the tested pillars of democracy, social justice, and secularism, ideas that the BJP and Mr. Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) are intent on destroying.”
There are confirmations from Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Pawar and Sharad Yadav (Loktantrik Janata Dal). Former PM HD Deve Gowda and Arvind Kejriwal have also reportedly given their consent. Either Stalin or Kanimozhi will attend from the DMK, and Chandrababu Naidu could also be there with KCR.
BJD is also participating, but the representative’s name is not yet known. Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani from Gujarat and three former BJP ministers Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha, and Arun Shourie are also expected to be in attendance.
Mamta Banerjee proclaimed with respect to the rally, “The nation will hear from leaders of different parties. The rally will mark the death knell for BJP. We (TMC) will hear what all parties have to say. Every political party has its own vision and ideology. We will not thrust our opinion on others. Let the leaders decide. This time regional parties will be the decision-maker.”
The BJP is planning a rally with PM Narendra Modi to counter Mamta Banerjee’s rally. With regard to opposition unity, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley commented that “the ‘Nawabs of Negativity’ may come together, but they wouldn’t hold together or carry much credibility among the people ahead of the Lok Sabha elections”. He added that the alliance is a weak and fragile combination “where survival is the priority and policy probably comes very low down in the priority” and the “situation looks scary”.
It is clear that Mamta is looking to play a central role in the planned anti-BJP alliance like other regional leaders. The size and level of attendance in the rally will determine how it delivers on the two core objectives – a show of strength for Mamta and a test of unity for the Opposition.
A critical drawback for this united opposition will be the choice of leadership, which is unlikely to be resolved before elections. Moreover, amid the growing clamour among regional parties for a Third Front, it is important for these parties to present an alternate governance narrative for India. It will not be enough for them to be just opposed to the Modi government.