Mamata Banerjee outside her home on Harish Chatterjee Street Pic: Amit Datta
TT, Calcutta May 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury – Mamata Banerjee is apparently planning to invite a plethora of leaders cutting across party lines to her swearing-in on Red Road next Friday.
The invitation list is also likely to include all chief ministers and top leaders of national and regional parties.
“She has expressed her desire to invite all top leaders. The list is being prepared. It will be sent to the governor,” a senior Trinamul leader said.
Traditionally, swearing-in ceremonies are held at the Raj Bhavan in Calcutta. The only exception was in April 1957, when Bidhan Chandra Roy had taken oath as chief minister at the Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling.
The all-powerful Atulya Ghosh wanted the swearing-in to take place in Darjeeling. Padmaja Naidu, who was the governor, had administered the oath of office.
Mamata, too, took swearing-in ceremonies outside the confines of Raj Bhavan by getting Calcutta mayor Sovan Chatterjee and municipal corporation chairperson Mala Roy to take their oaths at the Town Hall in 2015 so that more people could participate.
If the invitation list offered an insight into Mamata’s national ambitions, her future flight schedules also pointed to her plans for a larger stage in view of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The chief minister today told her party colleagues that from now on, she would fly to Delhi frequently.
“Mamatadi said she would visit Delhi every two months and interact with leaders of other political parties,” a Trinamul leader said.
According to sources, the chief minister spoke of her plans at the end of her first interaction with the newly elected Trinamul MLAs at her Kalighat home this afternoon.
The sources said Mamata’s “Mission Delhi” would begin with her swearing-in, where Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal would be among the invitees.
According to the Trinamul sources, Mamata was likely to start her Delhi trips during the monsoon session of Parliament or after the festive season in October.
After Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, Mamata had shunned Delhi for several months. However, political and administrative compulsions had forced her to meet the Prime Minister in March 2015.
The Delhi talks had sparked Opposition allegations of a bonhomie between the two leaders. The apparent tardy pace of the Saradha probe had reinforced the Opposition’s claim and the allegation of an entete had been one of the major campaign planks of her rivals in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
Although Mamata has signalled that she is looking for prospective partners to take on the BJP, she has kept the door open for issue-based support to the Centre.
“Didi has realises that an anti-Delhi stance will not help the state. While the political battle will continue, we will have to ensure that the state’s interests are protected,” a Trinamul MP said.
The Trinamul sources said Mamata’s decision to visit Delhi regularly was significant because she was planning to use the three years before the general election to stitch together an alliance of non-BJP parties.
“The Assembly election results have given her tremendous confidence. There is no political force in Bengal that can match her,” another Trinamul MP said.
The MP said that given the slide of the Congress in most big states, the party would not be in a position to call the shots at the national level.
“Except for Karnataka, the Congress is not in power in any of the big states. They stand no chance of winning in Uttar Pradesh. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as a strong contender. The Congress will have to join us,” the MP said.
The Trinamul sources said Mamata was confident that the Left-Congress hand-holding would not continue for long as most central leaders of the CPM were unhappy with the decision and would corner the advocates of the alliance.