TMC steps up bid to build anti-BJP front

Kolkata: Reviving efforts to forge a rainbow alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) will take part in two meetings of opposition parties this month, one in Delhi and the other in Mumbai.

Rebel BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha will be launching a forum called Rashtriya Manch to bring together leaders from across political parties to start a debate on matters of national importance, The Indian Express newspaper reported on Tuesday.

TMC member of Parliament (MP) and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi will attend the launch of Sinha’s Rashtriya Manch on 30 January, leaders of the party said. Trivedi himself was not immediately available for comment.

Before that, on 26 January, Trivedi will be in Mumbai to attend an event being organized jointly by opposition parties in Maharashtra. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan are also expected to attend the event, said Derek O’Brien, another TMC MP and spokesperson for the party, who confirmed Trivedi’s participation.

With less than two years to go before the 2019 general elections, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is stepping up efforts to build a united front of regional parties to take on the BJP.

She came to the forefront several times in the wake of the demonetisation of high-value currency notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2016.

In her march to Rashtrapati Bhawan in protest against the cancellation of currency notes, Banerjee managed to bring together regional parties such as the NCP, Samajwadi Party, National Conference, Aam Admi Party and former BJP ally Shiv Sena.

The Left parties, which compete with TMC in West Bengal, have normally stayed away from political initiatives involving Banerjee. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM has also been invited to the event in Mumbai along with Hardik Patel, leader of the Patidar movement in Gujarat. It isn’t immediately known if the CPM will attend the event.

As BJP expands its political influence, opposition parties are looking to join forces. Last weekend, CPM’s central committee discussed a proposal for getting into a pre-poll alliance with the Congress party, but the proposal was rejected.

In the 2019 general election, TMC is confident of increasing its strength in the Lok Sabha from 34 seats. It expects to emerge as the third-largest party after BJP and the Congress. Banerjee has started the spadework to make the most of her party’s strength in Parliament, said TMC leaders who asked not to be named.

“On its own, the party may not have much say,” one of them said. “So only by building an alliance will the Trinamool Congress become more relevant in national politics.”livemint