Banerjee said the attempt was to build a 'strong and effective opposition against the divisive forces'
Hyderabad, Kolkata: Trinamul Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday invited leaders of 22 non-BJP parties including the Congress, Left and Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao of the TRS, to a meeting in Delhi on June 15 to discuss the fielding of a joint candidate against the BJP-led NDA for the July 18 Presidential election.
She said the attempt was to build a "strong and effective opposition against the divisive forces." The deadline to file nominations for the election is june 29.
All eyes were on whether Chandrashekar Rao, who is making his own attempts to unite non-Congress parties to put up a joint candidate, would attend the meeting or not as Banerjee had invited Congress chief Sonia Gandhi as well.
The TRS maintained silence on Banerjee's letter on Saturday. A party's Lok Sabha member said, "There are four more days to go for Mamata's meeting. The CM will take a call on whether to attend the meeting or not by June 14."
TRS sources said Rao was of the firm opinion that the TRS should not support a candidate proposed or fielded by the Congress-led UPA. He was in favour of regional parties fielding a joint candidate and had no objection if the Congress supported the nominee.
Since the Congress is the principal opposition for the TRS, sources said, Rao was not keen on attending any political meeting which would be attended by top Congress leaders.
Rao's latest talk of launching a national party of his own against the Congress and the BJP, however, is being viewed as an indication that he had lost hope of convincing regional parties to come together. That also cast a shadow of doubt over Rao’s participation in Banerjee’s meeting.
Banerjee wrote to the invitees individually: "A nation with a robust democratic character requires a strong and effective opposition. All progressive forces in this country need to remain aligned and resist the divisive force that is plaguing us today. Opposition leaders are being deliberately targeted by different Central agencies, the country's image is maligned internationally and bitter dissensions are created within. It is time we strengthen our resistance."
She observed, "The Presidential elections are around the corner, presenting the perfect opportunity for all progressive opposition parties to reconvene and deliberate on the future course of Indian politics. The election is monumental because it gives legislators the opportunity to participate in deciding the Head of our State who is the custodian of our democracy."
The eight CMs that Banerjee invited are: Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Naveen Patnaik (Odisha), K. Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), M.K. Stalin (Tamil Nadu), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) and Bhagwant Singh Mann (Punjab).
Apart from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Banerjee also invited RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, CPI general secretary D. Raja, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, RLD national president Jayant Chaudhary, former Karnataka CM H. D. Kumaraswamy, former PM H. D. Deve Gowda, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Sikkim CM Sikkim Pawan Chamling and IUML president K. M. Kader Mohideen.