Ahmed Patel meets Mamata Banerjee amid AAP dharna politics: 'Federal front', RS deputy chairman polls likely on agenda

Amid an impasse between AAP and the lieutenant-governor in Delhi, Congress leader Ahmed Patel met Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Sunday, triggering speculations.

According to CNN-News 18, the Congress reached out to Banerjee after being isolated in Delhi where it has opposed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's demand of statehood for Delhi.

Another indication of the Sunday meeting is that the Congress is interested in being a part of the Opposition coalition against the ruling BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. And the building up of a non-Congress front could be a worry for the Congress.

"Patel meeting Banerjee is politically significant as it is likely that he has been directed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to meet the chief minister. Banerjee today is in the leading role of uniting all Opposition parties against BJP. And Congress obviously wants to be a part of it," a TMC source told PTI.

Patel, who had come to meet Banerjee with flowers and a big fruit basket, was warmly invited inside the Bangla Bhavan in Chanakyapuri by the TMC supremo.

While several regional parties, including the TMC, the Telugu Desam Party, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Left have extended support to the Aam Aadmi Party leader, Congress has criticised Kejriwal for his "theatrics".

Kejriwal's campaign against Lieutenant-General Anil Baijal, a central government appointee, over his alleged attempts to stall his government's functioning has become a rallying point for many Opposition parties against the BJP.

File image of Congress leader Ahmed Patel and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File image of Congress leader Ahmed Patel and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Banerjee, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Andhra Pradesh's N Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka's HD Kumaraswamy had a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the sidelines of the NITI Aayog Governing Council meeting on Sunday and urged the Centre to resolve the standoff.

It is also likely that Patel met Banerjee ahead of the election for the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha to seek support for the Congress nominee for the post, CNN-News18 reported.

With three regional parties BJD, TRS, and YSRCP holding the key to the election of Rajya Sabha's deputy chairman, both the ruling NDA and the Opposition parties are trying to woo them.

The Opposition's combined strength in the Upper House including the erstwhile BJP-ally TDP has 117 votes. But the winning candidate will require 122 votes in the 245-member House.

The BJP, which is the single largest party in the Upper House has the support of 106 members, including that of 14 AIADMK members.

Quoting sources, PTI reported that TMC leader Derek O'Brien is trying to build consensus to field a non-Congress, but Congress-backed candidate from the Opposition.

The names of TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and BJD leader Prasanna Acharya are doing the rounds for the post.

The BJD with nine members in the Upper House, however, has been maintaining equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress and is yet to decide which way to go.

Similarly, the other two parties — TRS with six members and the YSRCP with two members — are yet to open their cards on this crucial election which is seen as a test of the Opposition's unity.

According to sources on both sides, the 17 members from these three parties will be deciding factor in electing the next deputy chairman.

The floor managers of the ruling party are also in touch with these three parties, as all of them had supported the BJP during the presidential election in 2017. The BJD, however, had later extended its support to the Congress candidate for the vice-president post.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 10:17:12 IST

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