A host of Opposition leaders are set to attend a political rally organised by West Bengal Chief Minister and All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) leader Mamata Banerjee on January 19.
Aimed to be a show of strength for Opposition forces ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the ‘United India’ rally will be held at the Brigade Parade ground in Kolkata, West Bengal.
It is being called by some as the largest such event in West Bengal since Independence.
With no such public meeting in the planning, this is likely to be not just the first but also the last united opposition rally before the Election Commission of India (EC) announces poll dates for the general elections.
Several Opposition leaders are also expected to hold meetings with each other on the sidelines of the rally.
The event is being seen by political observers as a launch pad for Banerjee’s campaign for the top office in New Delhi.
Speaking to mediapersons while surveying the venue on January 17, Banerjee said, “It will be a historic rally. Leaders of almost every opposition party will be present.”
"It will be a 'United India Rally' against the misrule of the BJP. It will sound the death knell for the BJP...The saffron party's seat count in the general election will not cross 125. The number of seats the state parties will win will be much higher than that of the BJP's,” Banerjee said.
"The federal parties, that is the regional parties, will be the deciding factor after the elections," she claimed.
Who is attending?
The Opposition is likely to be present in full force from across regions.
Among those expected to attend are: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President MK Stalin, former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) President HD Deve Gowda, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) National Convener Arvind Kejriwal and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, former Jharkhand Chief Minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) chief Babulal Marandi, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal, National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah and former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are also likely to attend.
Former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha, Ram Jethmalani and Arun Shourie are also expected to attend along with the saffron party’s Bihar Member of Parliament (MP) Shatrughan Sinha. The latter will attend the event as a representative of Yashwant Sinha's political action group Rashtra Manch.
Who is not attending?
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi will not be attending the rally. However, it has been confirmed that the party will be represented by senior party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
However, extending moral support to Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi said in a letter, "I extend my support to Mamata Di on this show of unity and hope that we send a powerful message of a united India together."
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati is set to give the rally a miss. However, she will be represented by Rajya Sabha MP Satish Mishra.
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Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who is trying to stitch together a non-BJP non-Congress ‘Federal Front’, will not be attending the rally. KCR’s new ally YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) will also give the event a miss.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), along with other Left parties, too won't be attending.
On participation of Left parties, Banerjee had earlier said: "I had invited the Left, including the Kerala Chief Minister. I have performed my responsibility. If any party does not want to come due to political compulsions, I respect the decision."
Similar shows of strength were put up by the Opposition during Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2018 and during those of Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel in December 2018.