Pride of place for 3 leaders at Mamata rally
Mamata Banerjee seemed most content introducing BJP dissidents Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha on her Brigade dais on Saturday and suggested more seniors in the party had been denied respect by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duopoly.
“Not just them (the trio), have they (Modi and Shah) shown any respect to (Union ministers) Rajnathji (Singh)? To Sushmaji (Swaraj)? To (Nitin) Gadkariji?” Mamata asked, as Yashwant and Shatrughan were seen laughing on the dais.
As Mamata highlighted the presence of “prized catches” Yashwant, Shourie and Shatrughan while emceeing the event, the trio lived up to her expectations, delivering passionate speeches and dealing the BJP the unkindest cut from within its fold.
All three are former Union ministers who served in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet. Yashwant was finance minister, Shourie minister of communications and information technology, and Shatrughan the health minister. Of the three, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan is still in the BJP and the current MP from Patna Sahib.
“Since Independence, this is the first government fudging statistics and inflating development data to fool the people. This is a dangerous game,” said Yashwant, 81.
The patriarch from the old guard, a member of the BJP’s hallowed Margdarshak Mandal not so long ago, Yashwant said he had achieved everything he could have aspired for in his career and his only desire was to see the ouster of the “anti-people” government from the Centre.
“Sabka sath, sabka vikas was the (Modi) slogan. Sabka sath toh leh liya, par kiya sabka nash (Everybody’s support was taken, but instead of development, destruction was handed out),” Yashwant said to thunderous applause.
Shourie urged the Opposition to work together “at any cost” to ensure the exit of the Modi government. “We have to have one single aim — throwing the BJP out. Undertake sacrifices readily. Become Arjun (the Mahabharat warrior) and do not waver from this one lakshya (aim).”
Shourie stressed that the mission “will not be easy”. “One candidate against every BJP candidate has to be ensured. Division of votes will be lethal. This sacrifice is a must, out of love for this country,” the 77-year-old said.
According to Shourie, Modi knows the “reality” and will fight hard. “Trust me, Modi knows his grip has loosened. He will do everything he can to cling to power.”
Shatrughan described his presence at the Brigade as “an act of defiance” enough for the BJP to expel him. The Patna Sahib MP said he had told Yashwant so on the dais. Still, Shatrughan said he would continue “holding up a mirror” to the party’s face.
Shatrughan spoke at length, infusing humour and Bollywood-style quips in his speech. He attacked the Modi government over the Rafale deal, demonetisation and GST.
“I am not saying you (Modi) are guilty. But I will also not say that you are not. If you keep suppressing facts like this, people will continue to say chowkidar chor hain,”Shatrughan added, echoing Rahul Gandhi and lavishing praise on the Congress chief.
Shatrughan said during Vajpayee’s government, there was lokshahi (people’s rule) in the country but under Modi, there was only tanashahi (dictatorship).
Urging all non-BJP leaders to help change the fate of the nation by bringing in a new government, Shatrughan stressed the need for unity despite diversity. “Matbhed ho toh ho, manbhed na ho (there can be differences of opinion, but do not let differences of mind come in the way).”