Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu in Discussion over “Mahaghatbandhan”

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee are negotiating over the minutiae of the aggrandized alliance called the “Mahaghatbandhan.”

However, Ms Banerjee was quite sly on her stance over the alliance concurrently not revealing fine points of the discussion these two great leaders of opposition had. Nonetheless, another meeting of the duo is lined up which will take place today.

At the joint press conference held in the evening, Ms Banerjee said, “Everybody is the face of the Mahagathbandhan”. Mr Naidu concurred, saying, “We are all senior politicians… more senior than Mr Modi”.

The leader of Telugu Desam Party also confirmed that he would participate in the January 19 rally in Kolkata – which is being billed as evidence of Ms Banerjee’s heft with the opposition leaders. “We are totally together, we are all together.  We are working against BJP government,” Ms Banerjee added.

One of the earliest interlocutors of a united opposition, Ms Banerjee has been also been one of leaders pushing for more visibility and more say for regional parties — as opposed to earlier alliances where the Congress played a dominant role.

After the Karnataka elections in May, where the Congress ceded the driving seat to HD Kumaraswamy, she even made her views public, asking the Congress and the BJP to keep in mind that “regional fronts and regional partners have a very important role to play”.

Mr Naidu, who, in his new role as the facilitator of a united front, flew down to Kolkata this morning, said they were also talking to Mayawati, the other key leader currently miffed with the Congress.

After failing to get the Congress to tick on her seat sharing checklist for assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Mayawati declared that any question of alliance in this round of elections is off. But she had left the door ajar for the national elections.

With Uttar Pradesh sending the maximum number of lawmakers to parliament, a grand alliance without Mayawati will not be too effective. In the recent round of by-elections, the tie-up between the Dalit powerhouse and Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav had notched up big victories against the BJP.

“We are in touch.  We will work together,” Mr Naidu said today on the question of Mayawati’s inclusion in the Grand Alliance.

Mayawati already has an alliance with HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka. She has also forged an alliance with former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi ahead of the elections in Chhattisgarh. On whether they will ally with the BJP or the Congress if need be, Mr Jogi said they would be able to form government in the state on their own.