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Mamata Banerjee’s Fresh Effort to Unite non-BJP Parties

Mamata Banerjee’s Fresh Effort to Unite non-BJP Parties

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 31: Taking her time off from Nandigram where she is engaged in a bitter electoral contest against her friend-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari, the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has taken yet another initiative to united the non-BJP parties in the country against the “one-party authoritarian rule” of the BJP.

Even when she is camping in Nandigram for the last four days till the polling was over in her constituency on Thursday, Mamata wrote a three-page letter to the opposition party leaders highlighting how slowly but steadily the BJP was attacking the democratic institutions and the democratic structure in the country inevitably leading to authoritarian rule by one party.

It was not the first time that efforts were being made to unite the non-BJP parties on one platform but every time the initiative had received rebuffs from one party or the other particularly because of the multi-party claimants for superiority in the state level politics.

In a letter dated March 28, Mamata Banerjee wrote to about a dozen key opposition leaders including Congress’s Sonia Gandhi, suggesting a big get-together for a strategy to take on the BJP after the current round of assembly polls. The strongly worded seven-point letter said the time has come for a “united and effective struggle against the BJP’s attacks on democracy and the constitution” and “presenting a credible alternative to the people of India.”

Banerjee accused the BJP and its government at the Centre of “attacking democracy and constitutional federalism in India,” citing the recently-passed Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Bill as an example. “With this law, the Lieutenant Governor Delhi has been made the undeclared Viceroy of Delhi, acting as a proxy for the home minister and the prime minister. The government has snatched away practically all the powers of the democratically elected government of Delhi,” the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief said.

Starting with the controversial new law for Delhi that gives more powers to centre’s representative the Lieutenant Governor, Banerjee also presented seven instances of what she called the BJP’s “assaults” on democracy and cooperative federalism.

“The BJP wants to make it impossible for non-BJP parties to exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms. It wants to dilute the powers of the state governments and downgrade them to mere municipalities. In short, it wants to establish a one-party authoritarian rule in India,” she wrote.

“What the BJP has done in Delhi is not an exception. It is increasingly becoming the rule,” she wrote, enumerating how the Centre is “creating problems for elected governments”.

The list included “misuse” of the office of the governor, central agencies like the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, “withholding” states’ funds, “disbanding” bodies like the National Development Council and Planning Commission, using money power to topple non-BJP governments, privatisation of “nation’s assets” and “deterioration” in the relations between the states and the Centre.

“I strongly believe that the time has come for a united and effective struggle against BJP’s attacks on democracy and the constitution… As the chairperson of TMC, I shall work wholeheartedly with you and all other like-minded parties in this battle,” Banerjee wrote.

Besides Sonia Gandhi, the letter was sent to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, DMK’s Stalin, Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, YSR Congress chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, BJD chief and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana chief minster K Chandrashekar Rao, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejaswi Yadav, Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and CPIML’s Dipankar Bhattacharya.

The notable exclusions were CPI and CPIM, which are Banerjee’s traditional rivals in West Bengal and are now confined only to Kerala.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Banerjee had been one of the key proponents of a unified opposition to take on the BJP. But the opposition wall they were planning fell through as the leaders failed to resolve internal rivalries, especially among parties that are rivals at the state-level.

Subsequent attempts to bring everyone on board on various issues have failed as well. Even the joyous presence on the dais of most of these opposition party leaders when the JD(S) managed to form a Government in Karnataka with the support of the Congress in 2018 to deny BJP the opportunity, also did not last long even as the coalition itself broke following internal dissentions and large scale influx from both the coalition partners to the BJP.

In January last year, Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress was one of the six key absentees as 15 parties attended a meeting in Parliament House, called by Sonia Gandhi, to discuss the contentious citizenship law, National Register of Citizens and the countrywide student protest. Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party said it was not even invited for the meeting. The Congress and the AAP do not see eye-to-eye because of the local interest in Delhi as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) because of the political battle over Uttar Pradesh.

In May, AAP, Mayawati’s BSP and the Samajwadi Party skipped the mega online meeting to discuss a range of issues, including the Centre’s economic package, its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the situation of the migrant labourers after the lockdown was imposed.

And many political observers believe that Banerjee’s fresh initiative may meet the same fate because of the ego clash between the leaders of various non-BJP parties each considering himself the satrap of the region they are still surviving.

 

 

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