Life in Gurgaon

Opposition unity rally today is Mamata Banerjee’s crowning glory

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Mamata Banerjee is a phenomenon in West Bengal politics. Her party, Trinamool Congress, born only 21 years and 18 days ago, has achieved two landmarks already.

One, it has ousted the world’s longest running elected Communist government in the state. Two, it has helped rewrite the land acquisition laws of the country after Singur and Nandigram movements between 2006 and 2007 — in the 10th and 11th year of its existence.

On Saturday, the Trinamool Congress chief is going to have a third feather in her cap. On the dais of the United India Rally that she has convened at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, as many as two dozen leaders of anti-Bharatiya Janata Party outfits will be present.

Despite her lack of visible warmth towards Rahul Gandhi — Mamata Banerjee did not congratulate him after Congress’s victory in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh assembly polls — the Congress president sent a letter to her on Friday hailing the rally.

“It will be a big step in our opposition to the NDA. It’s going to be a historic show, no less significant than the show of unity organised by former CPI(M) stalwart (and then-West Bengal chief minister) Jyoti Basu in 1988 (when Basu, V P Singh and A B Vajpayee stood hand in hand),” said Sharad Yadav of Loktantric Janata Dal and seven-time MP, who was also present in that meeting 31 years ago.

If Mamata Banerjee has been able to attract leaders from such a rainbow collection of parties, it’s due to the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party stance, especially the staunch opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and an image that she cultivated since the Modi took over in 2014.

The Bengal chief minister has consistently kept up her opposition in well-calibrated moves, be it during the lynching of people for cow slaughter and storing beef, demonetisation, introduction of Goods and Services Tax, the National Register of Citizens, Aadhaar, the Centre’s run-ins with the Reserve Bank of India, Central Bureau of Investigation and even the judiciary, after the unprecedented press conference of four judges of the Supreme Court.

One of Mamata Banerjee’s most remarkable faculties is her acute political gut and the lightning speed with which she responds.

A few minutes after PM Modi announced demonetisation at 8 pm on November 8, 2016, the Trinamool chief was the first politician to criticise the controversial move.