NEW DELHI :
Two leading opposition figures, Samajwadi Party (SP) founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, on Wednesday made significant comments that can either unite opposition parties or sharpen their differences.
Yadav in Lok Sabha hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns to power in the forthcoming 2019 general election, while Banerjee tried to bridge the political gap with both the Congress and arch-rival Left by reaching out to them at a public meeting in the national capital.
The SP founder’s comments, in the Lok Sabha on the last day of the budget session, embarrassed the loosely stitched opposition alliance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yadav said that he wished all members of Parliament would return to the House after the Lok Sabha polls.
“I wish that all members come back to the House...I wish the Prime Minister becomes Prime Minister again," said Yadav.
The statement came on a day Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, national convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), organized a protest against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Delhi with more than 17 opposition leaders sharing the dias as a mark of solidarity.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Banerjee used the opportunity to try and play down her differences with Left parties, saying that while her party was fighting the Congress and the Left in West Bengal, nationally all opposition parties were on the same platform.
“In the coming days, we will get together and fight. The fight we have with Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, will be in the state. On the national level, we will fight together. I have said this with a big heart. Let them fight against me but for the greater interest of the nation I am ready to sacrifice my life, party, and everything," Banerjee told those gathered at the rally.
The statements by the two key leaders can define opposition dynamics in the coming days. Banerjee hinted at bridging the gap with the Left on the national front, but the greater worry for the opposition parties is the SP leader promoting Modi for a second term.
Yadav’s comment could pose difficulties for the opposition as the SP has recently joined hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh to contest 80 Lok Sabha seats together. Uttar Pradesh is crucial for both the BJP-NDA combine and the opposition parties as the state was instrumental in giving the BJP majority status in the Lok Sabha. The BJP-NDA won 73 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh during the 2014 general election.
Opposition parties are also facing problems in some other states.The AAP has not joined hands with the Congress in Delhi and the situation is similar in Kerala, where the Left parties are opposed to the Congress.
However, the Congress attended the rally on Wednesday. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja also attended the event, though they left before Banerjee arrived.
This is the second time that opposition parties have come together on a common platform, in a continued show of strength ahead of the forthcoming general election. Last month, Banerjee organized a similar event in Kolkata. An event organized by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Monday against the central government in Delhi saw opposition parties come out in support.
In an attempt to present a united face, opposition parties held a meeting and later addressed a joint press conference in which they announced their decision to start a conversation about a common minimum agenda and explore the possibility of a pre-poll alliance. The meeting was attended by leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Banerjee, president of the Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar and Naidu.
PTI and Pretika Khanna contributed to this story.