Kolkata: Indian National Congress president sent to Mamata Banerjee’s ‘United India’ rally in Kolkata on Saturday Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi to represent his party. The other opposition parties that registered their attendance at the function were the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Rashtriya Lok Dal, National Conference, Telugu Desam Party and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
While top leaders like Akhilesh Yadav (SP), MK Stalin (DMK), Sharad Yadav (LJD), Sharad Pawan and Praful Patel (NCP), HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy (JDS), Ajit Singh (RLD), Farooq Abdullah (NC), N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and Hemant Soren (JMM) were seen on the stage, the BSP sent its man for all seasons Satish Chandra Mishra.
BJP rebels made their presence felt at the venue with disgruntled Arun Shourie, quitter Yashwant Sinha and MP-yet-rebel Shatrughan Sinha attracting television cameras. Gegong Apang, who recently resigned from the BJP was at the venue, too.
Among the activists, both Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani were seen on the stage.
Speaking on the occasion, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu alleged that the Narendra Modi government had failed on all fronts and had been misusing all the constitutional institutions of the country. “The BJP government has failed on all fronts and they have been misusing all the constitutional institutions of the country,” Naidu said after reaching here to attend West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s mega opposition rally on Saturday.
“We (Opposition parties) have joined hands to save the country and the democracy,” the Telugu Desam Party chief asserted. When asked about the form of an Opposition alliance that the country would witness in the days to come, Naidu said, “Tomorrow is an important day for national unity as all the Opposition parties have come together and this meeting will set a new agenda for 2019.”
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said from the stage the coming together of the SP and the BSP had led to a “wave of happiness” in the country and left a worried BJP to hold meeting after meeting to devise a strategy to win even one seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Yadav also sought to give a reply to the BJP questioning the opposition parties about their prime ministerial candidate. “They ask, who is PM candidate of opposition parties… We say people will decide the PM candidate from our side. But from their side, this name (Narendra Modi) has disappointed the country, who is your other name?” Yadav said.
The SP head said while opposition parties had entered into an “alliance with the common people”, the BJP had forged ties with the CBI and the ED.
JMM leader Hemant Soren on Saturday called for “uprooting” the BJP from the country and said the opposition parties to give a “fitting” reply to the “communal” party in the next Lok Sabha polls. Speaking at the mammoth united opposition rally hosted by Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee, Soren said the way BJP was running the country will create a “violent and disturbing time for the country.”
“We the opposition parties have to give a fitting reply to the communal reply to the communal forces … We will have to uproot BJP not only from the Centre but also from the states,” the former chief minister of Jharkhand said.
Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Saturday said while Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had given a call to fight against the ‘Goro’ (Britishers) “we are fighting against ‘choro’ (thieves).”
The Gujarat activist thanked Banerjee for bringing all major opposition leaders on one platform and pointing towards ‘jansailab’ (deluge of people) said it was an indication that BJP is on its way out of power.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi hailed the Trinamool Congress’s mega opposition rally, saying that the aim of the rainbow alliance was to defeat the BJP and form a secular government.
“Never before have we seen such vendetta politics,” Singhvi said, adding, “When Amit Shah did 100 rallies in Uttar Pradesh, no one questioned, but when RJD organised a rally, it got an Income Tax notice.”
BSP leader SC Mishra said factories had closed down, farmers were in distress, minorities were the worst affected under this government, which needed to be uprooted. “If we want to save the Constitution, we need to get rid of the BJP government,” he said. He added that the mega rally organised by Banerjee was a sequence to the process of SP-BSP coming together to defeat the BJP-led government at the Centre.
DMK chief MK Stalin said, “Wherever Prime Minister Modi is going, he is fiercely attacking the opposition. Modi is fearful of the opposition and that is why he is also cursing us, he is afraid of our unity, we must come together to safeguard India.”
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy Saturday said that in 70 years, the country has seen an emergence of strong regional parties which have played important roles to protect the interest of their own states and understanding the emotions of their own people.
Stating that India is one of the strongest democracies in the world, the Karnataka chief minister said: “But today we are witnessing a day where the democratic government (at the Centre) is headed by some undemocratic persons.”
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah called the EVM the “chor machine” and demanded that the ballot paper system be brought back for the sake of transparency. He said, “It is not the question of ousting any single person but of saving the country and honouring the sacrifices of those who fought for its freedom.”
“The EVM is chor machine. Honestly speaking, it is so. Its use must be put to an end. Nowhere in the world is the machine used. The opposition parties should approach the Election Commission and the President of India to stop the use of the EVM and bring back the old ballot papers for the sake of transparency,” he said.
Zoram Nationalist Party leader Lalduhawma said the entire northeast was “burning” because of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. “If the bill was enacted … , India will no longer be the place that it used to be … so we want a secular government at the Centre so that this bill was withdrawn or exemption must be given to the northeast,” he said at the opposition rally at the Brigade Parade ground here.
Lalduhawma, who is also the leader of opposition in the Mizoram Assembly, alleged that the BJP, RSS were trying to rewrite the history in their own way. He said, “We are looking forward to seeing a new secular government at the Centre so that people of the northeast are protected.”
Shourie and Sinha
Former union minister Arun Shourie asked the opposition to work together to throw out the BJP government at the Centre in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Shourie said there were no two opinions on the need to oust the BJP. “We (opposition parties and leaders) have to have a single aim – that is ousting the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election. Become Arjun (of Mahabharata),” he urged the opposition leaders.
Former union minister Yashwant Sinha came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government saying that this was the first government after Independence which had been playing “mischief” with the developmental statistics.
Addressing the opposition rally here, Sinha, who quit the BJP recently, said, under the present regime, praising the government was “desh bhakti”(patriotism), criticising it is “desh droh” (sedition). “After Independence, this is the first government which has been presenting decorated and inflated developmental statistics to befool people,” the former minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government said, apparently referring to the NITI Aayog downgrading GDP growth rate during UPA time.
Shatrughan Sinha said, “Agar sach kehna baghawat hai toh samjho hum bhi baghi hain. Main sach ke saath, siddhanton se samjhouta nahin kar sakta. [if speaking the truth is rebelling, I am a rebel. I am with the truth; I cannot compromise with my ideals.]”
Chief Minister Banerjee spoke finally. She said, “Danga laga do, fasaad laga do, ek hi unka issue hai, Hum Bangal main ‘rath yatra’ ke naam pe danga-fasaad nahin karne denge. [BJP’s issue is to engineer riots. We will not allow them to riot in the name of ‘rath yatra’.] According to her, the Modi government failed on all fronts.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Biju Janata Dal, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party and the communist parties CPI and CPI(M) were conspicuous by their absence at the rally.
Despite Gandhi extending his support to Banerjee’s mega rally, the West Bengal Congress said Friday their fight against the “misrule” of the TMC would continue as the high command had not asked them to stop it.
“Our party president Rahul Gandhi has extended support to the anti-BJP platform. Our fight against the BJP and TMC in Bengal would continue. The party high command has not asked us to stop it,” state Congress president Somen Mitra said.
BJP supporters go ‘DimBhaat’
It is said about the huge political rallies earlier the CPI(M) and now the TMC organise at the Brigade Parade Ground that the crowd is lured to the venue by an offer of a sumptuous meal, which is normally rice and a dish of fish. On this occasion, however, supporters of the BJP alleged that the poor were offered a plate of egg and rice. “Dimbhaat” trended on Twitter as long as the ‘United India’ rally continued.
As Narendra Modi had done throughout his tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, projecting any attack on him as an attack on six crore people of his State, the Prime Minister said from Silvassa on Saturday, reacting to the Kolkata rally, that the mahagathbandhan were an attack on the people of the country. “It’s a fight between Vikas (development) and bhrashtachar (corruption),” the prime minister said.