|Mamata Banerjee addresses the rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Oct. 1: Mamata Banerjee today threatened to bring a no-confidence motion against the UPA government and announced plans to take her campaign to the Hindi heartland, scaling up her assault in a rare spectacle in which a chief minister sought to cast herself as the principal Opposition leader.
“We also don’t want this government. If needed, we are ready to bring a no-confidence motion against the government,” the Bengal chief minister declared from the Jantar Mantar stage at a time even the BJP, the main Opposition, has not spoken of efforts to dislodge the government.
“I am ready to work with other parties to bring a resolution against the government…. I would request other parties not to support this government,” Mamata said, pointing out how the government managed the numbers by getting the support of other parties.
Mamata said she would travel across the country, taking time off from her responsibilities as chief minister of Bengal where she faces the tough task of steering a state saddled with a severe resource crunch.
The Congress offered a “very small suggestion” to Mamata. “There comes a time in the life of every political party and politician when you have to evolve from an agitator to an administrator... from a street fighter to a statesman,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Mamata appeared to be keen to force the hand of the fence-sitters into taking a stand. Although Mulayam Singh Yadav is said to be keen on early elections, he has not yet revealed his hand on a resolution in Parliament against FDI in multi-brand retail. Mamata too had been avoiding a categorical commitment till now.
“Uttar Pradesh zindabad, Madhya Pradesh zindabad, Haryana zindabad, Punjab zindabad…” Mamata thundered, saying she would hold a rally in Lucknow and invite Mulayam and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Mamata added that she would talk to Nitish Kumar and hold a rally in Patna, although the role she would play in any front would be determined by the number of seats her party can win in the next Lok Sabha elections.
The Trinamul leader appeared keen to contest suggestions that her national relevance had been lost after she withdrew support to the UPA.
Keeping with the “pan-India” mood, the crowd, which had gathered to protest FDI in retail and the recent fuel price hike, chanted: “Desh ka neta kaisa ho, Mamata Didi jaisa ho (How should a leader of the country be, they should be like Mamata Didi).”
However, Mamata refrained from personal attacks on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whom she had mimicked in a television interview last week, or Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Her vitriol was largely reserved for the government, and she pulled out every trick in the trade to play to the gallery.
“When we protest against the government, they show the CBI,” Mamata said and then tried to roar in line with the statement by Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav that she was a “lioness (sherni)”.
“Bring the CBI. Put me in jail. I am ready to go to jail. I don’t fear anybody. I have struggled all my life,” she declared at the top of her voice, drawing applause from the crowd.
Trinamul’s industrialist MP, K.D. Singh, had marshalled a sizeable crowd from Delhi and neighbouring Haryana, his home state, and Mamata savoured the success of her show of strength in Delhi. Estimates put the crowd at 4,000 to 5,000, enough to fill the Jantar Mantar road and creditable considering the capital’s reluctance, unlike Calcutta, to turn up for political protests.
Mamata was all smiles as Sharad stepped on the stage and showered praise on her for taking the “courageous” decision to pull out of the UPA.
“Mamata is the real lioness. History will remember her for her courageous decision…. I salute Mamataji and like the Long March, her voice will reach across the country. We will take her around the country,” Sharad said.
Sharad, the NDA convener, took care to clarify that he had turned up as a “citizen” and not as a leader of the Opposition combine.
Mamata’s proclaimed readiness to bring a no-confidence motion suits the NDA well. The NDA wants to pull down the government but is wary that if it takes the lead, non-UPA parties like the Samjawadi Party and the BSP would bail out the government citing the threat from “communal forces”.
There is a similarity of views on the issues “Mamataji is raising and so Sharad Yadav sharing the stage is a welcome development”, BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
“She is a pure leader with no taint,” Sharad said and went on to compare Mamata with Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia.