The proposed ‘united opposition’ to counter the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections got a boost of sorts on Wednesday when the ruling party’s disgruntled ally Shiv Sena said that it will attend the January 19 mega rally next year in Kolkata convened by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. A report in The Indian Express said that Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Delhi, extended an invitation to the Shiv Sena during a meeting with Sanjay Raut at the TMC office on Wednesday. The Rajya Sabha MP in return said that Sena pramukh Uddhav Thackeray will join the rally, touted to be a show of strength by the opposition parties ahead of the general elections and also projecting Mamata as the leader of the alliance of the anti-BJP front.
Thackeray and Banerjee have been reportedly maintaining close contact for the last two years. In November 2016, when the government had announced to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from the economy, Sena MPs had joined a march led by her from the Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhavan to register their protest.
In June last year, Banerjee took to Twitter to extend greetings to Thackeray on the occasion of party’s 52nd foundation day. Later in November, when Banerjee had visited Mumbai, Thackeray and his son Aditya had met the West Bengal Chief Minister.
The Shiv Sena’s decision to attend the January 19 rally is seen as an embarrassment for the BJP that has always favoured contesting elections with the former. The two ruling allies at the Centre and Maharashtra have been at loggerheads for around two years now with the Sena persistently launching attacks at the BJP over a host of issues. Though the Sena has 18 MPs, it has got only one representation in the Modi cabinet – Anant Geete. The party has already announced that it will go solo in 2019 general elections and assembly elections in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, Banerjee is expected to embark on a nationwide tour starting November to garner support for her January 19 rally. She will be meeting leaders of the opposition parties to invite them for the mega show. To counter Banerjee’s rally, the Bharatiya Janata Party has also planned a mega show in Kolkata on January 23 which will be addressed by PM Narendra Modi.