On Saturday, at least two dozen top national leaders participated in a Trinamool Congress-hosted rally at Kolkata's Brigade Parade Ground. It's part of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's efforts to bring the anti-BJP parties together on one platform.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had sent their good wishes for the rally.
Leaders who attend the rally : HD Deve Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy, N Chandrababu Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal, MK Stalin, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Pawar, Sharad Yadav, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Satich Chandra Misra, Ajit Singh, Jayanta Chowdhury, Mallikarjun Kharge, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shatrughan Sinha, Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, Gegong Apang, Hemant Soren, Babulal Marandi, Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani, Pu Lalduhoma
(Inputs from Shiv Sahay Singh, Suvojit Bagchi, PTI)
Here are the updates:
Modi govt has passed its expiry date: Mamata
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee : "Modi government has passed its expiry date. There are 22-23 parties here. Bengal has always shown the way. Taking a cue from Kejriwal's speech, in 70 years what Pakistan failed to achieve, Modi government has done it in four years. From demonetisation to GST, they have looted the country. He claims that he is only saint, let the government fall, you will realise. Their party offices are like shopping mall. Politics has a courtesy, there is a Lakshman rekha. They have spared none why should we spare them?
They are changing everything - history, geography, constitution. There are no jobs and they are promising reservation. This brigade has seen historical rallies. Today's call from the brigade has come out of a historical necessity. Everybody should come together. Collective leadership is required.
They ask who will lead us, there are so many leaders here. We will not think of who will be Prime Minister. We will decide that after the election. Similar rallies will be organised by Chandrababu Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal. If Farooq ji does a similar rally in Kashmir, if Tejwashi does it in Bihar, we will go.
If people vote to BJP again, they will lose their deposits in banks. I will not allow any rath yatra in Bengal. In Bengal, they have two seats; we will ensure they draw a blank here. People have made up their mind. Whatever BJP can promise to people, their ache din will not return. If you want country to remain united, remove BJP. We will ensure a stable government for five years. Have they given respect to anyone? Have they given respect to Rajnath ji, Sushma ji, Gadkari ji? Now elections are here, so they are talking about collective leadership. Those who cannot take everyone along cannot be leaders. We want those parties which are with BJP to come to us before election. BJP's beginning of the end has started today."
'People ask me why I speak against BJP': Shatrughan Sinha
Shatrughan Sinha : "I have not seen a more lively and well attended gathering. We are here to present a new leadership to the country. The mood of the nation is clear. It is 'change'. People ask me that being with the BJP, why do I speak against the party. I am answerable to the Janata of Bharat and not to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Yashwant Sinha was saying that after today's rally I will be expelled from the party. In the government of Atal Behari Vajpayee there was democracy now there is tanasahi (dictatorship). Demonetisation and implementation of GST democracy destroyed the country.''
On Rafale, intellectualist N. Ram has said costs increased by 41% . We have such a good company like HAL which can built Sukhoi. Why was it not involved? Modi can promise to build a bridge where there is no river. This is the time to be united," he refers to Mr. Kharge's speech. "Matbedh ho to ho manbedh Na ho (There can be different of opinion but there is should be no differences in heart)."
Tejashwi Yadav : "I got delayed because of the blessing of Amit Shah and Modi ji. My father has been jailed owing to a political controversy. You can be chowkidaar (watchman) but people are thanedar (policemen). Country is in tatters and we are all acting like a needle to sew it with different threads. Mamata ji has always stood by my father."
'Even coalition government can do better than BJP': Deve Gowda
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge : "In a Rafale scam, you have given ₹30,000 core to Anil Ambani. This has been reported in The Hindu newspaper." He refers to an article on Rafale deal.
Sonia Gandhi 's message: "As crisis looms from farmers to our borders, farmers under crisis, political institutions are being undermined. Upcoming Lok Sabha elections will be not an ordinary one. This rally marks an important attempt fight arrogant Modi government."
Janata Dal (Secular) patriarch H.D. Devegowda : "I know keeping aside differences is not easy. Following the SP BSP alliance, chargesheet was filed against Akhilesh Yadav. I urge all leaders to come together to form a manifesto. It is difficult to come together. There is no senior leader like Jayprakash Narayan or Acharya Kriplani. Modi raises that stable government is necessary for running country. We have to create confidence among the people of the country that we can give stable government. Mamata ji has held the first mahagathbandhan meeting. Even coalition government can do better than what BJP government has done. We have to show coalition government can create a stable government. Small committee should form policy document. Time is very short. There was a doubt whether Congress will come or not. The doubt has been cleared."
Andhra CM N. Chandrababu Naidu : "We want to unite India, BJP wants to divide India. This PM is a publicity PM, we want a performing PM. Earlier the economic growth rate was better. Because of low growth jobs are not being generated. We are warning the Centre if they want to dislodge the government in Karnataka they will pay a heavy price. EVM is a big fraud. No other nation has the EVM so we have to go back to paper ballot. The downfall of BJP has started. In 2019 there will be a new Prime Minister. Extraordinary initiative by Mamata Banerjee." Mr. Naidu offers a meeting on similar lines in Amaravathi. Mr. Kejriwal too made a similar offer.
Sharad Pawar of NCP: "We are hopeful with the gathering that has assembled here. For five years the BJP has been ruling the country. The people feel that they have been cheated. Institutions are being targeted. Industries are closing down, people are losing jobs . We have a responsibility of removing them from power. Many, particularly those from BJP say that all of us on stage will not remain united. I want to assure that we are not here to become Prime Minister. I have been Chief Minister for four terms, been Minister at Centre, I don't want anything but to see interest of people are protected."
'Our democratic government is headed by anti-democratic leaders': Kumaraswamy
Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy : "Happy to be part of the rally. My father has taught me to be humble like Mamata Banerjee. The leaders gathered here have built strong regional parties. All these leaders have tried to protect interest of the State. India one of the strongest democracies in the world. Our Democratic government is headed by anti-Democratic leaders. Demonetization was like digging up a hill only to find rats. Union government has turned blind to the interests of the people. Federal system being jeopardised. (Refers to loan waiver in Karnataka, said that banks agreed but later backed out.) Government of Karnataka is waiving the loans but banks are sending notices to farmers. On one hand BJP a makes resolution to fight corruption but it is offering cash to legislators of JDS and Congress. This is a mockery of democracy. Let us show that BJP is a paper tiger. Let us come together and show them our strength."
Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party: "On January 12 an alliance of SP-BSP was sealed. Many believed that alliance can never be forged. They saw that we have number of PM aspirants. We have so many but I want to ask that those who have failed tried to divide society other than one name do you have any other contender? You are allying with CBI and ED but we have faith in people. We have one responsibility that the BJP should draw a blank in every State. This is a historical rally and I thank Mamataji for that."
Instead of promising jobs, demonitisation destroyed jobs, says Kejriwal
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal: "Today is an important and historical day in the country's politics. Instead of their promise of giving jobs demonitisation destroyed jobs. Insurance companies are reaping profits and farmer distress continues. Muslims are being targeted, lynchings are occurring. In seventy years what Pakistan could not do in five years Modi and Shah have been successful in dividing the people. In they come again in 2019 the country will be divided. They have insidious agenda of changing constitution. What Hitler had done in Germany they want to do the same. 2019 election is not for electing the Prime Minister but to remove Modi-Shah from power. Kuch bhi karna ho 2019 mein inko hatao."
EVM a 'chor', bring back the ballot, says Farooq Abdullah
Farooq Abdullah of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference: "The BJP is responsible for the situation which Jammu and Kashmir is in. We have to love Jammu and Kashmir if we want to progress. Our students study in Bengal. We have to remove BJP and we have to fight election together. This EVM is a 'chor' machine. We all need to go to the Election Commission and ensure that ballot is brought back. For many years, Women Reservation Bill is pending in Parliament and they have passed Triple Talak Bill but not women's reservation. We will decide later on who will be the Prime Minister but first we have to fight the election together."
DMK president MK Stalin speaks in Bengali and Tamil. An interpreter translates for him: "There is a long relationship between Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The memorial of Swami Vivekananda is in Tamil Nadu. In politics and in other aspects like religion, Bengalis and Tamils are like brothers and sisters. I have come here to participate in the second war of independence on the call of Mamataji. The next general elections are next war of independence. All of us have one goal. to remove BJP and send Modi back to his home. Irrespective of political affiliations we have to be united. If we are united Modi will lose. A few months ago Modi used to say he has no Opposition. Since we have come together he is feeling scared and now he feels that he is facing a sure defeat. Many ask him whether I have personal animosity with Modi. I say no, but his policies are bringing disaster. Before coming to power he promised to bring back black money. Have you got Rs 15 lakh? Can there be a bigger lie? This is not a government for people but a private limited company headed by Narendra Modi."
Stalin continues: "Modi claims there is no allegation of corruption against his govt. Is Rafale deal not corruption? Vijay Mallya fled the country after meeting Arun Jaitley, is it not corruption? Modi is the centre of all corruption. If Modi returns to power the country will go back by 50 years. I want to thank Mamata ji for the rally. Modi is scared of some people Mamataji is one of them."
Satish Mishra of BSP: "This government at Centre has failed on all counts. They made grand promises and instead of fulfilling those promises their policies have affected the poor and the backward (classes) of the country. On January 12 the announcement of SP and BSP of alliance in Lucknow began the process of dislodging the government. This rally takes the initiative further."
'This government fudges data to suit their ends'
Yashwant Sinha : "In the past four and half years the government at the Centre has not spared any institution. This is the first government that fudges data to suit their ends. They want to divide society. If you oppose the government you are branded anti-national. I have suggested that the Kashmir issue can be resolved through dialogue and have been branded as an agent of Pakistan. I have only one goal in life, that is to dislodge this government from power. We have to ensure that there should be a joint candidate against BJP in the coming election."
Arun Shourie calls demonetization a lunatic decision: "There can be no difference of opinion about removing this government. Rafale scam the biggest ever scam in defence sector. Modi is aware that his grip is loosening. What is happening in Karnataka will happen in Madhya Pradesh. We have to approach it with a sense of sacrifice. One strong candidate of the Opposition against BJP candidate. Mamataji has set an example . Every State should have similar rallies. So far only Modi was working to unite the Opposition. Now since the Bengal tigress has taken this job I think other parties will follow it.
Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi calls this rally a rainbow of 22 parties: "I want to thank Mamataji for this grand attempt. This government has institutionalized politics of revenge. The politics of division is a hallmark of this government. (Refers to the proposed Bengal rath yatra) The Supreme Court has so far supported the State government but BJP will not give up it's divisive politics. Division of votes should stop. Tne BJP has always been beneficiary of that. I want to ask the Prime Minister when he criticises this alliance that the most immoral alliance was what BJP did in Jammu and Kashmir."
Sharad Yadav refers to The Hindu report on Rafale, says this government has indulged in a "dakaiti" on the issue.
Lalduhawma , of Zoram Nationalist Party in Mizoram: "I want to give a warning to the Prime Minister that the Citizenship Bill should be withdrawn. If not India will not be a suitable place for people of the northeast. I appeal to all regional parties of northeast to cut all association with the BJP."
Jayant Chowdhury of Rashtriya Lok Dal: "There are about 19 to 20 parties on the stage. Mamataji has done the impossible bringing all of us together. People of the country have a lot of faith in Mamataji. Country should learn from Bengal. Next government at Centre should be a government of farmers. Modi should apologize for demonetization. Maybe the people of the country will forgive him."
'Citizenship Bill is dividing the northeast'
Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Sharad Pawar arrive. Hardik Patel starts his speech.
Jignesh Mewani: "There is an unprecedented crisis in the country. The spirit of the constitution is to be protected."
Hemant Soren from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha: "Communal forces are gaining ground. Atmosphere of fear. Regional parties will come together to fight communal forces. We thank Didi (Mamata) for this platform. Not only will we be able to uproot BJP from the Centre but dislodge it from different States."
Gegong Apang , former Arunachal Pradesh CM, speaks: "Jewels of Indian leadership are present here. We are here to save democratic principles laid in the constitution. In Arunachal Pradesh, democracy is going through its worst stage. Former CM of my State committed suicide. Citizenship Bill is dividing the northeast."
TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee and other leaders are yet to arrive. Surojit from Bangla band Bhoomi, Kabir Suman and Nachiketa - all attached to TMC - are performing at the venue.
Suvojit Bagchi writes:
As the top and entire anti-BJP spectrum leaders meet on Saturday in Kolkata, their messages will be carefully monitored. What is the roadmap that that they provide for the Opposition if at all they provide one? Do they back Mamata Banerjee's earlier proposed Federal Front and push her formula of "one is to one" or favour putting up one United Opposition candidate against against one of NDA?
It would also be interesting to find out if anyone proposed a plan to elect a leader which, though, is unlikely. Particularly critical would be the message of Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress Leader in Lok Sabha, who is there as Rahul Gandhi's envoy.
All roads leading to Brigade Parade Ground in Central Kolkata are blocked as Trinamool party cadres are either marching towards the venue or traveling in open lorries or buses. The above photograph is near Bijan Setu in Ballygunje.
As many as 10,000 security personnel will be deployed in and around the venue of the rally and around 400 police pickets have been set up to ensure foolproof security, the police said. Lakhs of TMC supporters and workers have started arriving in the city from all over the State.
Besides the huge stages, 20 watchtowers have been erected and 1,000 microphones and 30 LED screens put up for the crowd.
Janata Dal(S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang, who quit the BJP a few days ago, arrived in Kolkata by Friday evening. Congress leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, are expected early on Saturday.
The city is covered with Trinamool’s flags and billboards featuring Ms. Banerjee and her nephew Abhisekh Banerjee, MP. The city is full of hoardings featuring three Chief Ministers, one former Prime Minister (Mr. Gowda) and leaders representing the entire anti-BJP spectrum.
“There will be so many leaders that it would be difficult to allot more than 10 minutes to each of them,” said a close aide of Ms. Banerjee. Trinamool activists have arrived from all over West Bengal and are housed in various stadiums; food is distributed at various points in the city.