Opposition leaders gathered on Wednesday for the third time in less than a month — first for a rally and later, a meeting — in a show of strength and unity against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The parties said the two should be “ousted” in the coming general election as they were a “threat” to democracy and constitutional values.
THE NOT-SO-MEGA RALLY
Huge posters having BR Ambedkar’s image and slogans like “Tanashahi Hatao Loktantra Bachao” dotted the rally venue — Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
In a fiery speech at the rally, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the situation in the country was “more dangerous” than emergency.
Besides Mamata, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Yadav of the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), NCP’s Sharad Pawar, DMK’s Kanimozhi, ex-Arunachal chief minister Gegong Apang, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D Raja and Samajawadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav spoke at the rally.
Mamata Banerjee gave a clarion call to the Opposition parties to fight at the national level to oust the BJP-led NDA from power.
“Any fight with the Congress will remain in the state(West Bengal). At the national level, we will fight together, this I am saying from the heart. For the greater interest of the country, I am ready to sacrifice my life, my party. I am ready to sacrifice everything,” she said, adding democracy in the country has become ‘Namocracy’.
The TMC supremo further appealed to all the Opposition parties to play to their strengths and not cut into each others’ votes. She also asked them to ensure they get all the seats in the states they are strong in.
“I went to a Gandhi statue and and thought that Modi has to be removed”, she said.
“People who have blood on their hands are ruling the country”.
“It is the prime minister’s last day as elected leader in Parliament today,” she said after the Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die.
“Everyone is afraid of Gabbar Singh. There are two of them — (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (BJP chief Amit) Shah,” she claimed.
Interestingly, minutes before Mamata Banerjee arrived, Yechury and CPI leader D Raja had moved away from the stage. She said the prime minister’s speech in Parliament was “his last” in the House as a people’s representative and that his government had reached its “expiry date”.
Mamata also raised slogans — ‘Modi Hatao, Loktantra Bachao. Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao’.
The mega rally — ‘Tanashahi Hatao, Loktantra Bachao Satygraha’ — was convened by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with Kejirwal, its supremo alleging Modi was trying to “tear apart the Constitution” and “destroy democracy”.
“Last time you made a class 12 pass Prime Minister of the country. Do not commit the mistake this time and find someone who is educated….,” Kejriwal said, referring to questions raised on Modi’s educational qualifications.
Describing the BJP as a “threat to democracy” which must be defeated in the coming general election, the Opposition leaders spoke in unison — “Modi has to go”.
The Congress party was represented by Anand Sharma. He said: “This dharna is a message of voice of India that has been betrayed in the last five year by BJP and Modi.”
Disgruntled BJP lawmaker Shatrughan Sinha too later joined the leaders and trained his guns at his own party’s government.
On a day when the CAG report on the 2015 Rafale fighter deal was tabled in Parliament, Sinha said Modi should speak the truth on the agreement between India and France because, as prime minister, he was accountable to the nation.
He even egged on the crowd on the issue, as they chanted, “Chowkidar Chor Hai”.
The rally was organised nearly three weeks after Mamata Banerjee hosted Opposition leaders in a similar show of strength on January 19 at Kolkata’s parade ground.
Kolkata’s rally gained a lot traction in terms of eyeballs and footfall. There was a spectacular media coverage — in addition to the gravity of statements the Opposition leaders made.
Delhi’s rally, as opposed to the Kolkata rally, turned out be a damp squib — and Mulayama Singh Yadav’s “blessings” to Modi to continue being the prime minister, with Sonia Gandhi sitting beside him, made a bigger headline throughout the day.
Even the CAG report ruled the roost, but the rally failed to top the news charts.
UPA 3 IN THE MAKING?
Later in the day, top opposition leaders held a meeting in the national capital, during which Congress president Rahul Gandhi and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal were seen together for the first time. Sources said they have decided to work together with a common minimum programme to fight against the BJP-led NDA in the Lok Sabha polls.
The meeting was hosted by NCP president Sharad Pawar at his residence.
After the meeting, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that Opposition leaders had agreed to have a common minimum programme.
“We will work together to defeat the BJP,” he said.
Mamata Banerjee called the meeting “fruitful” and said there would be a pre-poll alliance.
Also in attendance were Farooq Abdullah and Chandrababu Naidu, who said there was a democratic compulsion to save India.
(With inputs from agencies)