West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday called upon opposition party leaders in the country to unite and start preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections right now and start taking initiatives for building a front of opposition parties.
“Democracy in danger. We have to start our planning for 2024 right now. But our phones are all tapped. Even ministers’ phones are tapped. Pegasus is dangerous, ferocious. I can’t speak to Chidambaram-Ji, Sharad-Ji, or the Shiv Sena’s chief minister because our phones are tapped,” she said while calling upon opposition party leaders to start working fast.
Significantly, even though she was addressing the state’s people – virtually – from the party’s flagship event dais, the majority of her speech was in English and Hindi, whereas she is used to delivering this speech mostly in Bengali every year.
“We have two years and a half left. We won’t gain by allying just ahead of the elections. Every day matters now,” she said, adding, “We have to forget our interests. Our only interest should be in saving the nation and the states.”
The TMC wanted this event to turn into a gathering of opposition party leaders from different parts of the state. Since the program was conducted virtually due to the prevailing situation over the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, several senior opposition leaders gathered at the Constitution Club in New Delhi at the TMC’s invitation to listen to the speech.
The leaders included Sharad Pawar and Supriya Suley of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), P Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress, Ramgopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan from the Samajwadi Party, Tiruchi Siva of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), Keshava Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Sanjay Singh of Aam Admi Party (AAP), Manoj Jha of Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Priyanka Chaturvedi OF Shiv Sena and Sardar Balwinder Singh Bhunder of Akali Dal.
Political strategist Prashant Kishor was beside her at the Kolkata venue.
“Let us start working right now to build a front,” Banerjee said, addressing opposition party leaders, adding, “The more we delay it, the more time will be wasted.”
She even gave an instant proposal of a meeting of opposition party leaders in New Delhi within a week. “I am going to Delhi soon. If Chidambaram-Ji or Pawar-Ji could convene a meeting between July 27 and 29, I will be able to attend it.”
Repeating the party’s hit 2021 Assembly election slogan ‘Khela Hobey’ (Game on!), she said, “Khela Hobey will now happen in all states.”
Taking swipes at the Modi government over the Pegasus snooping controversy, the TMC chief said, “This scandal is bigger than the Watergate. They will not spare anyone.”
She also displayed her mobile phone on which she had covered all the cameras with tapes. “You see, I have plastered (read covered) the camera of my phone so that they can’t record. This is where the situation has brought us to.”
“Not just us politicians, you people better be aware that you are all under surveillance. They have entered your phones, too. They know when you are sleeping and what you eat. They are trying to build a surveillance state. Instead of democracy, there is spying everywhere to shut people’s mouth.”
She alleged that the “election commission became just like a BJP party office” and appealed to the Supreme Court to start a suo moto case on Pegasus snooping or form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the allegations of snooping by the government on political opponents, bureaucracy and the judiciary.