As the ruling Trinamool Congress confirmed founder Mamata Banerjee as its chief for another term, the West Bengal chief minister called on regional parties to come together to defeat the BJP, against which she launched another sharp attack today.
"Given what is going on in the country... It can't go on. I call on all regional parties to come together," Ms Banerjee said, accusing the BJP of putting "my MPs in jail."
The Bengal chief minister, who has talked earlier of a federal front of regional parties, had met her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik yesterday amid speculation that she could revive those efforts. Both leaders said they did not discuss politics.
Ms Banerjee had later said, "That is my continuous process...We want regional parties to continue and strengthen the federal structure in the country according to the Constitution."
Another chief minister, Bihar's Nitish Kumar, has initiated the process of bringing anti-BJP parties together, requesting Congress president Sonia Gandhi yesterday to take the lead on that. Immediately, Mr Kumar has suggested, opposition parties should come together to field a joint candidate for the Presidential elections to be held in July against the nominee of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
In Mamata Banerjee's first round of talking about floating a federal front, Nitish Kumar was a key potential member.
Ms Banerjee accuses the BJP government at the centre of using central agency CBI to target key leaders of her party, several of who are in jail in various corruption cases. The rival party's strong performance in last week's by-election in a constituency that is her party's stronghold has also clearly rattled the chief minister.
The Trinamool won by a long mile as expected, but the BJP came second, upping its vote share from 10 per cent last year to 30 per cent. Bengal's chief opposition the CPM was pushed to a poor third.
Ms Banerjee told her party workers today that the CPM is losing its votes to the BJP and that they must ensure that "If there are CPM people around get them to join the Trinamool Congress, make sure they don't join the BJP."
The BJP, traditionally not a major political player in Bengal, has surged in recent years with party chief Amit Shah focusing on building up cadre in the state. In the last few elections the party has consistently increased its vote share and has announced a Mission Bengal ahead of local elections next year. West Bengal will only vote in 2021 for a new assembly, but the BJP also has its eye on a big haul from the state in the 2019 general election when it seeks a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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