By Express News Service
KOLKATA/NEW DELHI/PATNA/MUMBAI: Accusing the BJP of trying to establish a one-party “authoritarian rule’’ in the country, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday wrote to top Opposition leaders urging them to unite to defend democracy.
Her letter came ahead of the second phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal and it is being seen as an initiative to drum up Opposition support against the BJP, which is the main rival of the ruling Trinamool Congress in the ongoing polls.
Her call drew mixed reactions within the Opposition with the Congress choosing to remain silent, though regional parties like the RJD, NC P, AAP and SP extended full support.
“I strongly believe that that the time has come for a united and effective struggle against the BJP’s attack on democracy and the Constitution. We can win this battle only with the unity of hearts and mind and by presenting a credible alternative to the people of India,’’ she wrote.
In the three-page letter, Mamata appealed to non-BJP leaders, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, ailing NC P founder Sharad Pawar, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, DMK chief M K Stalin, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy, PDP head Mehbooba Mufti, CPI(ML) chief Dipankar Bhattacharya and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. She, however, did not write to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who had fancied his chances in the past at leading a third front.
Hitting back at the Bengal CM, BJP on Wednesday said that democracy should be the last word in her dictionary .
“Democracy should be the last word in @MamataOfficial & @AITCofficial dictionary. Their cadre attack @BJP4Bengal candidates, intimidate voters, capture booths, block all hoardings and at the end leaders preach Democracy,” BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh tweeted.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot supported Banerjee, saying he has echoed the same issues many times.
“What Mamta Banerjee has said is right that the central government is working to weaken states. The Centre should think to strengthen the states instead of weakening them,” Gehlot, who is in Assam campaigning for the assembly polls, told PTI over phone.
He was reacting to a letter written by Banerjee to non-BJP leaders, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, wherein she alleged that the Centre-state relations were at its worst since independence.
As she faces a high-stakes poll battle in West Bengal, Banerjee said the time has come for a “united and effective” struggle against the BJP’s alleged attacks on democracy and the Constitution, and that opposition leaders should try present a “credible alternative” to the people of the country.
Gehlot asserted that he has raised the same concerns inside and outside the assembly.
“Democracy in the country is under threat and people should understand its gravity,” he said.
The senior Congress leader said the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax department and other agencies are working under pressure from the central government, adding that those who express disagreement are labelled “anti-nationals”.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said it is imperative for the opposition parties in the country to unite in order to protect democracy and its cherished values.
She also said the need of the hour is to put up a collective fight against the “onslaught”.
“Agree with @MamataOfficial di that in order to protect our democracy & its cherished values it is imperative for the opposition parties to unite,” the PDP president wrote on Twitter.
She also shared a copy of her letter written in response to Banerjee’s communication.
“Thank you for reaching out to me. I share & understand your apprehensions about the central government undermining the federal framework that has been guaranteed by the Indian Constitution,” Mufti said in her response.
The former J-K chief minister alleged that the recent GNCTD bill is yet another example of how BJP is “bulldozing” its opponents by using its “brute majority” to pass and implement bills.
“This process started in 2019 with the dismemberment of Jammu and Kashmir and stripping it of its special status which was again a constitutional guarantee. Unfortunately, not many in the opposition used their collective power & voice to oppose this unilateral & illegal step,” Mufti alleged.
She also referred to the detention of political leaders and alleged harassment by central probe agencies.
“Therefore, the need of the hour is to unite & put up a collective fight against this onslaught,” she added.
(With PTI Inputs)