New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives to meet former Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018. (PTI Photo/PTI

Over A Dozen Meetings And A National Pitch: Didi Takes Delhi By Storm

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee managed to create a buzz in both the houses of the Parliament despite not being a member of either.

In over a dozen meetings on Wednesday, the Trinamool Congress supremo conferred with various leaders of opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal-Secular, Shiv Sena and a clutch of BJP dissenters. She capped the day by conferring with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi.

Banerjee, in a rare media appearance outside the Parliament Hall, sidestepped those questions, saying her priority was to stitch together an opposition front to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 general elections.

Political analyst and journalist Arati Jerath told BloombergQuint in an interview: “She obviously sees a larger national role for herself, perhaps a Prime Minister of a non-BJP government.”

While it may be early to stake claim to a head an opposition front, Banerjee is ensuring she’s taking the lead on many national issues. “She’s come and met the Congress halfway,” said senior political journalist Aditi Phadnis. This, Phadnis said, was an attempt to form a broad-based front without letting the leadership issue come in the way.

That’s not all. Over the last few days ‘Didi’, as she is referred to in her home state, has been sharply critical of the BJP government in Assam over the compilation of the final draft of the national register of citizens. As many as 40 lakh people have been excluded from the list, many of whom are Bengali speakers.

“The NRC strategy is aimed at consolidating power in Bengal,” said Jerath. The BJP has been consistently expanding its vote share in West Bengal over the last few elections, posing a challenge to Mamata’s TMC. Jerath said TMC needs to get 38-40 of the 42 West Bengal Lok Sabha seats in the general election to consolidate her position.