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Senior leaders may skip Mamata’s rally

Fissures widen ahead of Jan. 19 meet

All eyes are on the grand opposition rally scheduled to be held on January 19 at the Brigade Parks Ground in Kolkata. Organised by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) president Mamata Banerjee, the rally is seen as the next major congregation of Opposition parties.

The rally is also another attempt by the TMC to project Ms. Banerjee as a potential prime ministerial face if the opposition parties get their arithmetic right.

While the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal and Janata Dal(S) leader Deve Gowda have confirmed their presence, the presence of other senior Opposition leaders remains uncertain.

Congress unease

Ms. Banerjee, who shares a warm relationship with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, is keen that the latter attend the event on behalf of the Congress.

Sources in Congress, however, said it was unlikely that Ms. Gandhi would travel to Kolkata as she has cut down her political engagements drastically since her son took over the party.

With Ms. Banerjee making public her reservations about Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading any Opposition alliance in 2019, it is unlikely that he will attend the event.

“It is too close to the general elections. Unless we know the shape of the pre-poll alliance for the 2019 elections, we do not want to send any conflicting message. Our State unit is also not too keen that Mr. Gandhi be seen standing with the TMC,” a senior Congress leader said. According to sources, Mr. Gandhi is likely to nominate either Ghulam Nabi Azad or Mallikarjun Kharge on his behalf.

The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, who recently announced their alliance for 2019 polls, are also keeping the TMC guessing. Both parties have skipped the last two Opposition meeting in Delhi. The Left parties, who face obliteration in West Bengal, will also be skipping the event.

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