A few opposition leaders on Friday claimed West Bengal chief minister leader Mamata Banerjee had assured Congress president Sonia Gandhi that Trinamool Congress will support any common candidate of the opposition parties for the Vice-Presidential election. Her assurance came three days before Margaret Alva was selected as the common candidate in a meeting that was skipped by Trinamool leaders.
On July 15, around 2:30 pm, Sonia Gandhi had called Mamata Banerjee to discuss the Vice-Presidential election. The Trinamool leader had conveyed to Gandhi that she doesn’t have any candidate in mind and will support the joint candidate selected by the opposition parties,” said a senior opposition leader.
Next evening, after the NDA announced West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as its VP candidate on July 16, Sonia sent a message to Mamata around 8:30 pm on the Vice-Presidential election, according to another senior leader.
“But this time, it remained unanswered,” said the senior leader.
On July 18, when various opposition parties including Shiv Sena and TRS met at Sharad Pawar’s house to finalise the opposition’s candidate, Trinamool Congress didn’t attend the meeting. A leader present in the meeting said, “Pawar tried to call Mamata Banerjee but her office said, she is busy in a meeting. The opposition leaders waited for almost half an hour after Margaret Alva’s name was finalised, just to speak with Bengal CM. But no contact could be established.”
On July 21, Abhishek Banerjee, TMC’s all-India general secretary and also the nephew of TMC supremo and chief minister Banerjee announced that TMC will abstain in the Vice-Presidential election. “The question of supporting the NDA candidate doesn’t even arise and the way the opposition candidate was decided without proper consultation and deliberation with a party which has 35 MPs in both houses, we have decided unanimously to abstain from the voting process,” he said.
“We had proposed three to four names and a consultation was in process. But they announced the candidate without discussing and consulting with the TMC. We object to the way the hara-kiri was carried out at the last moment”, Abhishek added.
Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’Brien told NDTV, “This candidate was cooked up by folks in Delhi, we were given a 10-minute notice… You can’t cook up names and take us for granted, treat us as equals”.
While some opposition leaders now question the future of the entire opposition unity for 2024 general polls, some Trinamool leaders have privately reached out to some key opposition leaders. Apparently their problem was also CPIM general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s deep involvement in the VP election.
A nationally prominent TMC leader reportedly sent a text to an opposition leader saying, “Treat us as equals. Forget Yechury.”