Mamata Banerjee on a mission to glue Opposition leaders before 2019 Lok Sabha polls

But, everybody's eyes were on Mamata's meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who is known to have cordial relations with leaders across party lines

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Mamata Banerjee on a mission to glue Opposition leaders before 2019 Lok Sabha polls
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with Sharad Pawar and other leaders at Parliament on Tuesday

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee met a slew of Opposition leaders in an effort to glue together a federal front against the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Meeting with leaders from across the political spectrum, that were both pro and anti Congress, Mamata is emerging as the bridge that could glue a coalition effort to the run up to 2019.

In Parliament, she met with BJD's Pinaki Mishra, Shiv Sena MPs led by Sanjay Raut, Maharashtra farmers leader Raju Shetti, DMK MP Kanimozhi, TRS MP K Kavita, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, RJD MP Misa Bharti and JMM MP Sanjeev Kumar throughout the day.

Mamata said she will be meeting BJP rebel leaders Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie on Wednesday. Meetings with Farooq Abdullah and Kejriwal have also been fixed.

But, everybody's eyes were on Mamata's meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who is known to have cordial relations with leaders across party lines. According to NCP sources, the two leaders agreed that like-minded opposition forces need to come together to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in the General Elections as well as state polls.

A senior NCP leader said, "Mamataji urged Sharad Pawarji to make best use of his office and coordinate with opposition parties to bring them on the same page. We are clear about the fact that any opposition front cannot be complete without Congress."

Mamata's contention, sources in the NCP said, is that with the Congress being a part of the coalition, regional parties like the BJD or TDP might stay away. Earlier this month, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao met her in Kolkata to initiate a federal front that will keep out the BJP as well as the Congress. Yet, on Tuesday, she said that all was well between her and the Congress.

Speaking to reporters at the TMC office in Parliament after her meeting with Pawar, Mamata said that in the coming election regional satraps should come together if they want to keep the BJP at bay. "No one can work isolated. Whoever is stronger in any state should take the lead. If Mayawati and Akhilesh are strong, they should work together and we will help them. We will help the TDP, TRS, DMK, Naveen Patnaik, or Lalu. Here, it should be one is to one."

Reaching out to the Congress, she sent Dinesh Trivedi to fix a meeting with former Congress president Sonia Gandhi. But Gandhi had left the Parliament by then. "Soniaji is not well. Went to meet her but she had left. Let her recover," she said, adding that she keeps in touch with her "every day". On Congress president Rahul Gandhi, she said: "Rahul also SMSs and we talk. There is no problem."

Shiv Sena senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut called the meeting a courtesy visit, and denied any plans to pull out from the National Democratic Alliance. "Mamata Banerjee had met Uddhavji when she visited Mumbai and it was more of a courtesy meeting between us today. There was no specific discussion on the issue of partnering any federal front at this moment. Any such talk is not relevant right now," said Raut. Sena, BJP's oldest ally, has had a blow-hot-blow-cold relationship with BJP's central leadership and has openly criticised the government on big decisions such as demonetization.

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