Third front buzz grows as Mamata set to meet with Odisha CM Naveen this week
Mamata is likely to visit Delhi by the end of this month or after the Budget session of the Parliament in early April to meet the leaders to firm up plans to form a non-Congress, non-BJP front.
Published: 21st March 2023 11:27 AM | Last Updated: 21st March 2023 01:08 PM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: As Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is visiting Odisha to meet her Odisha counterpart and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik this week, the buzz about the formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP front is getting shriller. According to reports, Banerjee will begin her three-day trip to Odisha on Tuesday.
Mamata is likely to visit Delhi by the end of this month or after the Budget session of the Parliament in early April to meet the leaders to firm up plans to form a non-Congress, non-BJP front to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Speculation is rife that Mamata will meet leaders of at least eight Opposition parties, who have recently written to PM Modi on the misuse of central agencies against the Opposition. The signatories of the letter include BRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, Farooq Abdullah (NC), NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, Arvind Kejriwal RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav among others.
However, Congress, JDS, JD(U), and CPI(M) were missing from the list though Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a letter separately to PM Modi later. Speaking to this newspaper, a senior CPI(M) leader said that the party does not favour a third front as it will fragment the Opposition space.
Dismissing the idea of a third front, TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay last week said that Mamata Banerjee will start talks with regional parties that can defeat BJP.
Speaking to TNIE, psephologist and political analyst Sandeep Shastri said that though regional leaders will be forging alliances to retain their base, BJP will wholeheartedly welcome the emergence of a third front. “Mamata is meeting regional leaders from Orissa, Telangana, UP, and others who are contesting BJP as the main challenge in their respective States. Why would these parties want to be in alliance with Congress when their main aim is to dismiss Congress as the main rival to BJP in their states? Mamata’s idea is to try and build together an alliance of state-based parties who are opposed to the BJP.” said Shastri.
While TMC has been staying away from Opposition meetings called by Congress during the ongoing Budget session, insiders said that attempts to broker peace between the two have hit a dead end. The frequent war of words between Congress and TMC also illustrates the increasing animosity between the two parties.
During a recently held internal party meeting, Banerjee accused BJP of "making Congress leader Rahul Gandhi into a ‘hero’ to shift attention from issues and to stop Parliament from functioning. TMC chief’s accusation that the grand old party is in a tacit pact with BJP has raised the hackles of Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is perpetually at loggerheads with Banerjee.
Chowdhury shot back on Monday saying that the TMC has signed a deal with PM Modi to malign the image of Rahul Gandhi and Congress. “Mamata is speaking in the direction of PM Modi. She is attacking Congress to save herself from ED-CBI raids. She wants to please the PM by targeting Congress,” he said.
TMC has also found an ally in Samajwadi Party (SP) Chief Akhilesh Yadav, and both vowed to keep an equal distance from Congress and BJP. On Sunday, during his speech at the concluding day of the national executive meeting in Kolkata, Akhilesh Yadav sent a message to Congress that as several regional parties are trying to stitch an alliance against BJP, Congress has to take a call on its role. “The third front parties believe that if they were to be a part of a united opposition led by the Congress, they are likely to face political collateral damage. Because in their state, they are the main rivals of the BJP. In an alliance, they will have to concede space to other parties,” said Shastri.
However, Congress still maintains that no anti-BJP front can be formed without Congress assuming the central role.