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When Lalu Yadav Came To Mamata Banerjee’s Aid, Counselled Congress

When Lalu Yadav Came To Mamata Banerjee's Aid, Counselled Congress

Bengaluru:

Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee’s animated chat, which even held up a meeting, was among the highlights of the first day of the opposition get-together at Bengaluru.

The two leaders were so engrossed in their discussion that other opposition leaders had to wait before the meeting could start, sources said.

Top leaders of 26 opposition parties are at Bengaluru for the two-day meet to decide on a united front to take on the ruling BJP in next year’s national election.

The possibility of Sonia Gandhi – who was chairperson of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – being named president of the front, and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the convenor, was discussed.

Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee were the first to reach the main hall where the opposition parties met informally to decide on the agenda for the formal talks today.

The Congress leader and the West Bengal Chief Minister chatted for 20 minutes, standing in the middle of the hall. They met for the first time after the violence-marred Bengal rural polls, in which the Trinamool Congress clashed with the Left-Congress combine.

The Trinamool swept the polls amid allegations of poll irregularities by the BJP and the Left-Congress.

In her discussion with Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee reportedly talked about the Trinamool Congress’s friction with the Left parties. She reportedly discussed CPM leader Sitaram Yechury’s statement ruling out any alliance with the Trinamool Congress in Bengal.

Mr Yechury had, shortly before the meeting, told reporters in Bengaluru that “Mamata and CPM will not happen”.

“There will be secular parties along with the Left and the Congress in West Bengal which will fight against the BJP and TMC,” he had said.

Bihar politician Lalu Yadav, who is close to both Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee, reportedly interjected in the conversation and came out in the Trinamool leader’s support.

Lalu Yadav reportedly called out what he called the incessant criticism of Mamata Banerjee by Left and Congress leaders in Bengal. The RJD leader referred to remarks by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a fierce critic of Mamata Banerjee, and said such comments had to be avoided at all costs for the sake of opposition unity.

The discussions between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee continued when they sat together, waiting for other leaders to join them at the table.

The two leaders are known to share a good rapport but ties between their parties have soured because of their rivalry in Bengal. But both leaders said defeating the BJP next year is priority to save democracy and federalism.

At the meeting, Lalu Yadav reportedly said the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) should stop attacking each other.

There were hugs and smiles as Congress leaders welcomed AAP leaders at the meeting. As AAP’s Raghav Chadha walked up to the Congress leaders, the party’s KC Venugopal offered a smile and a hug, betraying none of the awkwardness expected after AAP forced the Congress to declare its support in the fight against the Centre’s ordinance on the control of services in Delhi.

When the meeting began, suggestions were invited for a name for the opposition front. The word “India” should be part of the name, suggested many leaders.

The Left parties called for a common minimum programme and also said state-specific subjects should be kept separate.

The discussions reportedly continued well after Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin and Nitish Kumar left.

The proposed tagline, “United we stand”, was on big banners at the meeting.

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