West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s letter to other Opposition leaders on Saturday, inviting them for a meeting in Delhi on June 15 to formulate a common strategy regarding the July 18 presidential elections could end up dividing the Opposition ranks.
CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI general secretary D. Raja questioned the need for shooting off such a “unilateral” letter without prior consultation with others.
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In a carefully worded statement, Congress’s communication chief Randeep Surjewala said party president Sonia Gandhi had taken the lead to reach out to several Opposition leaders, including Ms. Banerjee, and stressed that the party, along with others, can take the process forward.
“The time is ripe to rise above our differences for the sake of our Nation and its people. Discussions and deliberations have to be open minded and in keeping with this spirit, we believe that INC [Indian National Congress] along with other political parties should be taking this discussion forward,” Mr. Surjewala said.
Ms. Banerjee’s move comes days after Congress president Sonia Gandhi took the lead in calling up top Opposition leaders such as Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, besides the West Bengal Chief Minister.
Ms. Gandhi also appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to liaise with other Opposition leaders.
However, on Saturday, the Trinamool Congress tweeted, “Our hon’ble chairperson @MamataOfficial calls upon all progressive Opposition forces to meet and deliberate on the future course of action keeping the presidential elections in sight, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi on June 15 2022 at 3 PM.”
Many in the Opposition viewed the letter as an attempt to score a political point by trying to portray the Trinamool as the central player in the Opposition space.
While the Congress did not join issues with the letter publicly, Mr. Yechury described the move as unilateral. He said that a meeting of Opposition leaders such as Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Pawar had been tentatively fixed for next Wednesday (June 15).
“Mamata Banerjee shot off a letter unilaterally. This is highly unusual. The focus is to unite maximum Opposition parties. Any unilateral action will ensure only the opposite, harm Opposition unity,” Mr. Yechury said.
“Convening such a meeting without prior consultation is not advisable. The situation demands unity of all secular and progressive forces and that’s why no step should be taken that creates confusion and misunderstanding,” Mr. Raja said.
“The Congress party is of the opinion that the Nation needs a person as President who can protect the Constitution, our institutions and citizenry from the ongoing onslaught by the ruling party. This is the need of the hour. While the Congress party has not suggested a particular name, we owe it to our people to elect a President, who can apply a healing touch to its fractured social fabric and defend our Constitution,” Mr. Surjewala added.