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After getting snubbed in UP, Congress to share platform with SP in Kolkata


New Delhi, Jan 15: Days after Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) leaderships announced their alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha election this year, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is set to host a massive gathering at the iconic Brigade Parade Grounds in Kolkata where heavyweight non-BJP politicians will assemble to come up with a show of strength. Called the Mahagathbandhan rally, the mega show of 19/1/19 will be in essence an effort to launch TMC chief and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a prime ministerial candidate.

Days after BSP, SP dump Congress, GOP to be with Akhilesh at Mamata show in Kolkata

Among the top leaders to be present at the rally will be SP chief Akhilesh Yadav though BSP supremo Mayawati will give it a miss along with the two top Congress leaders - president Rahul Gandhi and former president Sonia Gandhi. The Grand Old Party will be represented by senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Besides, leaders like HD Deve Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy, Tejashwi Yadav, Badruddin Ajmal, MK Stalin, Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, Jignesh Mevani, Hardik Patel, Jayant Chowdhury and dissenting BJP leaders like Shatrughan Sinha and former saffron party leaders like Yashwant Sinha will also be present.

KCR against sharing stage with Rahul, to skip Mamata's Jan 19 rally

The get-together on January 19 will be the next big thing in the Opposition's scheme of things ahead of the LS poll but one cannot lose sight of certain anomalies in the anti-Narendra Modi front's unity. The SP and BSP have decided against taking the Congress on board in UP where the GOP has announced that it will go alone on all 80 seats, making it a potentially three-way fight and creating enough prospects of the Opposition eating into each other's votes.

SP did not entertain Congress in Lucknow, but will stage share with it in Kolkata

However, the SP leader next joins Banerjee on a stage where the Congress's representative will be present. This is quite difficult to comprehend and is bound to leave the voters clueless. Moreover, it is speculated that Rahul Gandhi refrained from attending the Kolkata meeting for one, leaders like Banerjee, Mayawati and Akhilesh skipped the oath-taking ceremonies of the Congress government in three Hindi heartland states recently and the Congress was miffed with it. And secondly, since the Bengal chapter of the Congress has an extremely poor relation with Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi's presence with Banerjee could have been seen as a conflict of interest.

KCR not to be in Kolkata; his rival Naidu will be

Neither will Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao be present at the Kolkata rally. Though the leader, who recently came back to power with a massive mandate, met Banerjee in Kolkata in December with an eye of forming the federal front, nothing substantial is said to have materialised it is reported. Moreover, chief minister of another Telugu-speaking state Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, will be present at the January 19 rally. Rao and Naidu are known to be political rivals and even the Congress joined hands with Naidu in the recent Telangana elections to defeat Rao but the alliance, which also had the CPI, was humbled.

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It is said that Banerjee is not too keen on promoting Rahul as the Opposition's prime ministerial face while Mayawati too has her own prime ministerial ambitions. Even Akhilesh echoed the TMC's stand to disagree with DMK chief Stalin's view of promoting the Congress president as the PM candidate in 2019.

The ends are far too inconsistent to be linked and given a logical conclusion, as far as the Opposition's unity is concerned. Even if the SP and BSP have decided to bury their hatchets and fight together against the BJP in UP, the absence of the Congress not only denies it a nationalistic flavour but also keeps the possibility open for the parties to eat into each other's votes and benefit the BJP eventually.

Mamata-Congress alliance looks unlikely in Bengal too

In Bengal, too, the prospects of Banerjee joining hands with the Congress seem unrealistic for she has enough capacity now to win maximum number of seats of her own in the state. The Congress is a weak force today in Bengal along with the Left and there is no electoral gain for a powerful force like the TMC by allying with the GOP even if Banerjee personally has good ties with the high command.

Kejriwal with representative of RJD, the party of convicted Lalu

Also, the scenario of Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister who was seen as a messiah in the war against corruption in India, attending a platform comprising representative of the party of a convicted politician like Lalu Prasad could also turn the voters off. It had become an issue in 2015 after the Lalu-Nitish Kumar-Congress alliance won the Assembly elections when Kejriwal was seen hugging Lalu. Even though Kejriwal is no more a force he was a few years ago, yet his attending the meeting with RJD's Tejashwi Yadav could be unconvincing for many viewers.

All in all, it's crazy times in the Opposition ranks still even though they are confident of defeating PM Modi and his BJP in the ensuing polls. There are far too many contradictions and puzzles to settle for the 'rainbow coalition' before they take on the PM who is still by far the most popular political leader in the country.

The question is: Who will join the dots? There is not another Jayprakash Narayan around today.

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