KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday threw enough hints that she is not averse to taking the lead in bringing together opposition parties on a single platform against the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election in 2019.
The Trinamool Congress chief also stressed on "collective leadership" and favoured the national opposition continuing to work together to put up a credible challenge to the Modi government.
"It depends... Already, we are working together in Parliament. We will see. I went to (RJD chief) Lalu Prasadji in Patna. I have a good relationship with (Samajwadi Party chief) Akhileshji (Yadav)and (BSP chief) Mayawatiji in Uttar Pradesh," she said.
"Also, we have relationship with Stalin (of DMK) and Naveen Patnaikji in Odisha. The other day, Uddhav (of Shiv Sena) came to meet me in Maharashtra. I maintain the best of relations with so many other people. Even within the BJP, I maintain good relations with some people but not with all the people," Banerjee said in response to a query on forming a grand coalition before the 2019 general election.
There was a big round of laughter when she said "not with all the people" in BJP, an apparent jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah who have been gunning for her.
The Trinamool leader was speaking at the India Today Conclave East.
Asked about opposition parties coming together to fight the next Lok Sabha polls, she said: "There is no personal agenda against PM (Prime Minister). Whenever public are facing problems, it is our duty to raise our voice. I believe in the collective leadership... At this present situation, all are working together and that is the best policy. Let us work together.
"In Bengal, the Congress and the Left, they are working with the BJP. But at the national level, we feel we must work together. We are working together with other parties," she said when asked to clarify what she meant by collective leadership.
Asked about her meeting with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray despite being seen as a "secular champion", Banerjee shot back: "First, I do not want to take any secularism certificate from anybody because it is my life and I maintain that. I am grateful to them as they accompanied us when we met President Pranab Mukherjee after the demonetisation announcement (in November last year).
"They opposed demonetisation. We can't forget that. That is why we maintain working relationship with them. If there is a common issue, of course we will work together."
Banerjee described demonetisation and GST as the biggest blunders of the Modi government.
She did not give a categoric reply to a poser about whether she was willing to work under Rahul Gandhi's leadership as part of a broad national coalition.
"I have told you (regarding collective leadership). I have a great respect for Rajivji, Soniaji. Rahul has started and let him work. Allow him to work first. So you cannot impose (on me) or bulldoze me on what would be my opinion. It depends on (future) situation. We work together. We are working together with 17-18 parties," Banerjee said.
To another question whether she was not confined to Bengal, Banerjee said the Trinamool Congress was recognised as a national party with units also in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand.
"Bengal is my motherland. We all love India. Bengal is my beginning and my end. But it does not mean we can't work at the national level. I have been MP for 23 years. I have been Railway Minister and Sports Minister at the Centre. Without regional politics, there is no national politics."
"I cannot forget Bengal....but we can work for the country. Already, I have worked for the country. If regional politics is strong, national and regional politics can work better."
She pointed to the importance of strong regional politics to make national politics stronger.
Asked if she had ambitions of becoming a Prime Minister, she said: "Let me continue as a commoner, LIP (less important person)." But later she said: "Bengal will lead the country."
Asked if it will be "Bengal or Bengali", Banerjee said: "Bengal will lead the country."
The Chief Minister pooh-poohed talk about the the BJP emerging as Trinamool's principal challenger in Bengal over the Left.
"Not at all. What will they do for Bengal? They have a propaganda machinery and it is a media-oriented political party and also called (riot) oriented political party. They only shout. They do divide and rule politics. Do you think Bengal will accept it. We are 99 per cent. They are one per cent. But this is the land of Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. People will never accept them."