Three key opposition parties in the centre have agreed to keep both the Congress and the BJP at an arm’s length, indicating they will follow a policy of treating the two parties equally.
This was decided after Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav met Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata today. Ms Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, will also meet Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha who heads the Biju Janata Dal, next week.
The strategy is aimed at countering the BJP’s attempt to portray Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as a key leader of a grouping of opposition parties. The BJP has been trying to get Mr Gandhi to apologise after he alleged opposition leaders’ microphones are muted in India’s parliament during a speech in London recently. Other opposition parties now suspect the BJP has been targeting them using Mr Gandhi.
माननीय राष्ट्रीय अध्यक्ष श्री अखिलेश यादव जी ने पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेताओं के साथ पश्चिम बंगाल की मुख्यमंत्री ममता बनर्जी जी के आवास पर की शिष्टाचार भेंट। pic.twitter.com/i0cv6GqOTZ
— Samajwadi Party (@samajwadiparty) March 17, 2023
“Rahul Gandhi made comments abroad and BJP will not let parliament function till he apologises. This means they don’t want parliament to function by using the Congress. The BJP wants Rahul Gandhi to be the face (of opposition) so that it helps the BJP. There is no need to decide on a prime ministerial face (for 2024 election),” Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay told NDTV.
Mr Bandyopadhyay said it’s a fallacy to think the Congress is the “big boss” of the opposition.
“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will meet Naveen Patnaik on March 23. We will discuss this (plan to maintain equidistance from BJP and Congress) with other opposition parties. We are not saying it is a third front, but regional parties have the strength to take on the BJP,” Mr Bandyopadhyay said.
Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed they want to maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP.
“In Bengal, we are with Mamata Didi. Right now, our stand is we want to maintain equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress,” Mr Yadav told reporters in Kolkata. “Those who avail the ‘BJP vaccine’ are not bothered by CBI, ED or I-T,” he said, referring to former opposition party leaders against whom cases by central investigation agencies were dropped after they joined the BJP.
Mr Yadav’s comment also alluded to several opposition party leaders being allegedly hounded by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, most recently Aam Aadmi Party’s Manish Sisodia and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Yadav and his family.