Anna Hazare with Mamata Banerjee in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Feb. 19: Social activist Anna Hazare today announced that he would go around the country campaigning for “good candidates” Mamata Banerjee puts up in the coming elections, endorsing the Bengal chief minister’s national ambitions.
Mamata acknowledged the support, saying her “poor party” would field “as many” candidates as possible with Hazare’s “advice”, though it remained unclear how much Trinamul would stand to gain.
Party insiders said Hazare was Mamata’s answer to the Left’s efforts to rustle up a third front. “Anna and Didi are naturally aligned. They live simple lives and want to work together to formulate policies that will help people and change the nation’s political status quo,” Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien said.
In Bengal, Trinamul sources claimed Hazare’s support would help “minimise” the possible impact of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, said to be toying with the idea of fielding candidates in some seats in the state.
Hazare, who addressed a joint media conference with Mamata, said he had decided to support her because of her principles. “For the first time the country and a state has got a leader who serves the people,” the septuagenarian activist said, adding that he would “go around the country” from March to campaign for “good candidates” put up by Trinamul. “Didi’s party is poor and so she cannot field candidates in all the 543 (Lok Sabha) seats. But I feel that if she manages to have 100 seats then she can lead the next government.”
Mamata, who hosted a dinner for Hazare last night, said the country was “craving for change” and, with the activist’s blessing, her party would field as many candidates it can afford. “We are a poor party. We don’t have crores of money like other parties. But we will contest almost all the seats in Bengal and the north-eastern states. In north and south India, we will take Annaji’s advice and field suitable candidates in as many seats as possible.”
Bengal and the Northeast (24) together account for 66 Lok Sabha seats. Sources said Hazare would select candidates who would contest on the Trinamul symbol from states like Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. All four happen to be on the AAP radar, too, which suggests Hazare is aiming to also clip the wings of Kejriwal, his estranged disciple.
Asked why he had chosen not to support Kejriwal, Hazare said the former Delhi chief minister had not bothered to reply to the letter he had sent to leaders of all parties seeking support on 17 points of governance. “Only Didi replied and agreed to implement all the 17 points if she forms the government,” he said.
“Didi has not taken a government bungalow and lives in a small room. She does not take salary, moves in her own car and leads a simple life. I have not found a chief minister who sacrifices so much,” the anti-corruption crusader added, in a veiled reference to Kejriwal who continues to occupy the flat allotted to him as chief minister.
Trinamul sources in Bengal also had Kejriwal on their minds. “She (Mamata) is worried about the AAP’s surge because the main plank of Kejriwal, who has vowed to rid the country of corruption, is almost similar to that of Mamatadi. So she has joined hands with Hazare to check the AAP’s growth in Bengal,” said a source. “The chief minister is trying to minimise the impact of the AAP.”
Post-poll alliance? Mamata won’t tell
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, in an interview to CNN IBN’s editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai on Wednesday, predicted 60 seats for the Congress and 150 for the BJP in the coming general election. She iterated her stand against both parties but was evasive on a possible post-poll alliance with either.
Q: Am I to understand that you would not tie up with the BJP-led NDA or the Congress-led UPA after the 2014
A: Today I cannot say about tomorrow, because I am not a political astrologer. But we are neither with the Congress or the BJP, that I can assure you.
Q: Only today? What about
after the elections?
A: I am telling you. It is not just this time. Everybody is keeping mum. After the elections we have to see the numbers. But we cannot compromise.... What do I say? We cannot adjust.
Q: Didi you’re not giving me a straight answer. You’re saying today you’d not align with the Congress or the BJP. What about you tomorrow? If you get 35-40 seats?
A: You ask me about support to NDA or UPA. But NDA or UPA, if they do not come to power, why will I give them my support?
Q: What if they come to you? What if Narendra Modi comes to Mamata Banerjee and says I want your support?
A: You forget, the federal front will form the government.
Q: Today, people are looking at you as a potential
king-maker for the next Prime Minister. Narendra Modi says Mamata Banerjee give me outside support or give me support. Will you accept?
A: You cannot judge for
tomorrow. I also cannot. Narendra Modi will get all seats, others will get zero,
I don’t agree. I believe they may not. One-fifty toh pehley karney do.
A: Sixty mein chala aayga.
Q: Do you see Narendra Modi as someone who can form a strong, stable government?
A: I have not seen him in Delhi. I have seen him only when Atalji was the PM, sometimes he used to come with him. I don’t know him. How do I tell?
Q: How do you see Rahul Gandhi? Do you see him
as a potential Prime Minister?
A: Please realise this is a
democratic set-up, it is the common people who will
decide. They will give the
number, not me.