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KOLKATA/NEW DELHI: “We have to unite, for our people, for our country. People will never forgive us if we don’t,” said Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, using the “July 21 Martyrs’ Day” platform to pitch for a united “front” of opposition parties to take on BJP in the 2024 general election.
Shahid Diwas is marked every year on July 21 to commemorate the death of 13 Youth Congress workers in police firing in Kolkata in 1993 during a protest rally being led by Mamata.
This has been an annual event since TMC was formed in 1998. Mamata urged opposition leaders “not to waste a single day” and to set aside “self-interest for national interest” to “work together… and create a front” to take on the “goli and gaali ka sarkar”.
“Khela hobe in 2024 in every state in the country till BJP is ousted,” she said. “Bura na mano, Modiji. Mohabbat kaam ki baat se hota hai, man ki baat se nahi(Don’t mind, Modiji. Work, not talk is proof of love),” she added. Her first effort at reaching out to audiences beyond the state — since she defeated BJP in the battle for Bengal — through a virtual address, saw leaders of opposition parties attending the screening of her speech at the Constitution Club in Delhi, where she virtually made an appointment to meet the opposition leaders next week when she plans to be in Delhi, for the first time after winning a third term in office in May
NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his daughter and party MP Supriya Sule, senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh, Samajwadi Party MPs Jaya Bacchan and Ramgopal Yadav, DMK MP Thiruchi Siva, AAP MP Sanjay Singh, RJD’s Manoj Jha, Keshav Rao (TRS), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena) and Balwinder Singh Bhundar of the Shiromani Akali Dal were seated among the TMC MPs present at the programme.
The party’s second “virtual rally” in as many years was beamed live across several thousand venues in Bengal and other states. Giant screens were put up across Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Delhi and Tamil Nadu to beam the TMC chief’s virtual address. Mamata asked Pawar and Chidambaram whether a meeting of opposition parties could be arranged on July 27, 28 or 29, when she would be in Delhi.
“At least we can talk,” she said, adding that she was planning a rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground “if the Covid situation is over… during the winter” for which she would send out invites to all opposition leaders and CMs. However, she made it clear that she didn’t harbour prime ministerial ambitions.
“I am only a worker. I will carry out instructions of senior leaders,” she said. “Elections are two-and-a-half years away but we need to start work together. (Even) independence is at risk with BJP — a highly loaded virus, even worse than corona — in office,” she said, adding that the BJP-led government was now “only a conductor of (central) agencies”.
“BJP-r mogoje morubhoomi (BJP has a barren brain),” she added, accusing the Centre of being a “monumental failure” in tackling Covid. “The PM praises UP’s handling of Covid when bodies are dumped in the Ganga and it is left to us to find and cremate them with the respect they deserve. They do not respect even the dead. Where are the vaccines? We need 14 crore vaccines, have got only 2.1 crore. When will everyone be vaccinated?” she asked.
Mamata showcased the Bengal model of development and urged states to replicate it. “Bengal is the model and not Gujarat. We all have seen what happened to Gujarat,” she said

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