Mamata-Akhilesh bonhomie: New front sans Congress in offing?

TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to meet BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik on March 23 to discuss a strategy to maintain equidistance from the BJP and the Congress.

Mamata-Akhilesh bonhomie: New front sans Congress in offing?
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav (File)

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said a new front sans the Congress will emerge ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election after he met West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Friday evening.

“You may call it a front, gathbandhan or an alliance, but something will emerge in some form ahead of the election as everyone wants parivartan,” Akhilesh Yadav told reporters in Kolkata.

Senior Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said that the party will not ally with the Congress or the Left parties in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and the party will contest the polls alone. But will meet with more like-minded parties in the coming days.

“Mamata Banerjee will meet Naveen Patnaik on March 23. We will discuss a strategy to maintain equidistance from the BJP and the Congress. We are not saying we are forming a third front, but will speak with like-minded regional parties who can take on the BJP,” Bandyopadhyay said. He did, however, stop short of calling any such arrangement a ‘Third Front’.

The plan is to counter the ruling BJP’s attempt to depict Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as a key leader of a grouping of opposition parties. “It’s wrong to think the Congress is the “big boss” of the opposition,” added Bandyopadhyay.

Yadav also confirmed they want to maintain equidistance from both 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,” Yadav said.

The former UP chief minister further said that his party will not support Congress but back Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to defeat the BJP.

Yadav also slammed the BJP government for the recent Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax crackdowns on many opposition leaders in the country.

While referring to former opposition party leaders against whom cases by central probe agencies were withdrawn after they joined the BJP, Yadav quipped, “The BJP has a vaccine that keeps the ED, CBI and the Income Tax Department away from those who join them from other parties. It is called the BJP vaccine.”

With 23 MPs in Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress is the third-largest Opposition party after Congress (52) and DMK (24). The Trinamool and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have frequently traded barbs with the Congress.

Earlier in March, Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK chief MK Stalin dismissed the idea of a Third Front and asked the Opposition parties to unite behind Congress. Stalin’s comment came at a time when a number of parties have indicated that they are interested in an Opposition alliance minus Congress.

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First published on: 20-03-2023 at 13:56 IST