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Bengal Congress trashes Didi as PM face talk

This was a day after reports emerged on Congress' being open to not projecting its president Rahul Gandhi to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi's re-election in next year's general elections

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Bengal Congress trashes Didi as PM face talk
Mamata Banerjee
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Congress' attempt to forge a wider 2019 coalition suffered a setback when its West Bengal unit said on Wednesday that the party would not support TMC leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a PM candidate.

This was a day after reports emerged on Congress' being open to not projecting its president Rahul Gandhi to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi's re-election in next year's general elections.

Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury told DNA, "Mamata lives in a make-believe world. Our workers are being killed by TMC goons. How can we support her? Our leader is Rahul Gandhi." West Bengal is the fourth-largest state in the country in terms of Lok Saba constituencies.

He said even if Mamata got all 42 seats in the state, she did not a nationwide appeal. State party spokesperson Ritzu Ghosal said Sunday's Congress Working Committee in Delhi decided that Rahul would be the face in 2019. He said the highest decision-making body also resolved the party would lead an alliance, still in the works.

Banerjee has been trying to forge a national front of regional parties to take on BJP, but many in the Opposition have remained sceptical.

She will visit Delhi for three days next week to invite Opposition leaders to a "federal front" rally she plans to hold in January in Kolkata. During her previous visits to Delhi, she met leaders of regional and Opposition parties.

Meanwhile, TMC leader Derek O'Brien said on Wednesday that regional parties would play a crucial role at the Centre and projected Banerjee as one of the "most senior leaders in this matrix". He also said that her emergence as one of the "front runners" for the PM's post "is nothing new".

"But these things would be decided later. The reality is, everyone is focused on electing a people-centric government and removing BJP," the TMC Rajya Sabha MP told reporters.

There is speculation in the Opposition camp that a female PM candidate may be projected, and BSP leader Mayawati's name is also doing the rounds.

BJP reacted sharply and said TMC knew its end was inevitable. "They are afraid that they will be non-existent in 2019, and that is why they are hanging these carrots to boost the morale of partymen and supporters. Anyone can day-dream," said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

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