West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will on Friday meet former Karnataka Chief Minister and Janata Dal (S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy in Kolkata.
This is likely to be the third meeting between the Trinamool Congress chairperson with a key leader of a non-Congress Opposition party in less than a week. These meetings assume significance amidst efforts by the Trinamool Congress and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi to stitch together a third Opposition front.
On March 17, Ms. Banerjee met with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav in Kolkata and on Tuesday she left for Odisha to meet Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
While Ms. Banerjee said that her meeting with Mr. Patnaik was a courtesy call she did emphasise on the strength of regional parties. “Regional parties are always strong. They are very much competent. Central government gives policy and the implementing authority is the State government. So wherever we go and whoever we meet we discuss the development of the State and federal structure also,” Ms. Banerjee said before leaving for Odisha.
These meetings are an indication that Ms. Banerjee is trying to bring regional parties together and maintain distance from both the Congress and the BJP.
Over the past few weeks the Trinamool Congress leadership had severely criticised the Congress, including Rahul Gandhi, calling him the “biggest TRP of Modi”.
Role of the Congress
On March 17, Trinamool Congress leadership accused Congress of acting like the “big-boss” of the Opposition and said that the party will maintain distance with both the BJP and the Congress. On March 19, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav after his party’s executive meeting in Kolkata said that regional parties are making a front or an alliance and that the Congress will have to decide its role in the set up.
The meeting between Mr. Kumaraswamy and Ms. Banerjee comes months before the Karnataka Assembly elections .The meeting also assumes significance since the Congress has already ruled out an alliance with the JD(S) for the Karnataka Assembly polls, leaving the JD(S) jockeying for a king-maker’s position, in case the elections result in a hung house.
The two parties have worked closely on various issues in the past, including co-ordinating for Presidential elections in June last year. Mr. Kumaraswamy had praised Ms. Banerjee after her victory over the BJP in 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls, describing her as “Goddess Durga who triumphed against evil forces”.