Mamata Banerjee was one of the first opposition leaders to work for a combined front against the BJP for the 2019 national elections.
NEW DELHI: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s meeting with his Bengal counterpart Mamata
Banerjee on Monday over his idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front raised more questions than
answers about its progress. At the after-meet press conference, while Mr Rao outlined his pitch, Ms
Banerjee remained a silent presence. Not once did the usually outspoken Bengal Chief Minister indicate
her stand – a far cry from their meeting in March, when Ms Banerjee spelled out that she did not
“completely agree” with “whatever Mr Rao had said”.
Ms Banerjee – an avid supporter of a bigger role for regional powers on national stage — has been
trying to bring them under a single umbrella within the anti-BJP front to counter the dominance of the
Congress and get to a better bargaining position. She was also one of the first opposition leaders to
work for a combined front against the BJP for the 2019 national elections.
Since last year, she has met a string of opposition leaders including Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal and
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were on the list of leaders she met
during her visit to Delhi in August.
Her silence on Monday is being seen as a sign that she is not entirely on the same page as the
Telangana Chief Minister.
Her party has already played down the visit of KCR, as Mr Rao is known among his supporters. Citing the
40-year political experience of Ms Banerjee – seven-time MP, two-term Chief Minister, three-time
cabinet minister — senior Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said it was natural that “many
people” would come to meet her.
“With 40 years of accomplishments, courage, all this is but natural… Everyone wants to listen to her,
share their thoughts with her… Looking at 2019, don’t be surprised,” Mr O’Brien said.
For Mr Rao, Kolkata was the second stop on his weeklong schedule to push for a federal front. The Chief
Minister, who left Hyderabad on Sunday, has drawn a blank in Bhubaneswar. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen
Patnaik has made no commitment about his participation in a Federal Front. At his next stop, Delhi, he
is expected to meet key Uttar Pradesh leaders Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.