Mamata Banerjee rally in Kolkata LIVE updates: Shortly after the United India rally came to a close, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took to Twitter to respond to the Opposition show of strength. 'Too many saints can ruin a monastery,' he wrote adding that '22 parties, a few MPs and a few prime minister aspirants...who can stop one from dreaming big?'
Mamata Banerjee rally in Kolkata LATEST updates: Speaking to ANI, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Opposition parties' united front is only to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that they have "no future road-map for the development of India."
Reiterating the BJP's questions about who will lead the Opposition parties, he said: "Someone said in a very funny manner that our leader will be elected by the people of India, you have to name your leader to be elected by the people of India. Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamata Ji and some regional players too, all have prime ministerial ambitions.
As united Opposition leaders spoke to media, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav thanked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for organising the United India rally, and accused the BJP of letting down the people.
"I congratulate Mamata didi for getting all of us together. The BJP has disappointed the people of the nation. They have no answers to any of our questions," he said.
Shortly after the United India rally came to a close, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took to Twitter to respond to the Opposition show of strength. "Too many saints can ruin a monastery," he wrote adding that "22 parties, a few MPs and a few prime minister aspirants...who can stop one from dreaming big?"
Emphasising the Opposition parties' unity, Mamata Banerjee said that it is 'inevitable' that a new government will be formed at the Centre, adding that this is the people's verdict.
The event concluded shortly after within chants of "badal do, badal do, Dilli mein sarkar badal do" and "Jai Hind".
Responding to the BJP's inquiry about the leader of the united Opposition front, the TMC leader said: "They are worried who will become our leader. We all are leaders here. You don't have to worry. Post elections we will decide who to become prime minister. BJP has become leaderless. That is why they have one party president and one prime minister
Saying that the Opposition party is hitting out at the Prime Minister because he has been doing the same, TMC leader Mamata Banerjee addressed the crowd in Bengali. "There is a lakshman rekha in politics that you should not cross. PM targeted everyone. Then why should we not target him? He claims he is clean but look at all the scams his govt is involved in. Things change, even weather changes, then why shouldn't the government change," Banerjee said.
"The Narendra Modi's government has an expiry date. I promise we will work together and fight together. I am taking a vow today that we will work together. Kejriwal said right things: Pakistan failed in its motive but Modi did the damage. Modi thinks he is saint and rest are corrupt."
Shortly after arriving at the Brigade Parade grounds, RJD leader Tejashwai Yadav reiterated that the Opposition must remain united, adding that the masses will not be intimidated by the BJP's tactics. He said Narendra Modi may be the chowkidaar (watchman), but the masses are the thanedaars (station officers), adding: "If you make a mistake, the thanedaars will make sure you face consequences."
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, whom Mamata Banerjee described as "a farmers' prime minister, not an accidental one", told the crowd: "The Centre is victimising leaders of Opposition parties using all machinery". He also urged senior regional leaders to prepare a manifesto together to take the united Opposition forward. "I was the prime minister for a short time. I know that a stable nation is important to build the a country," he said. "We need to instill confidence among the people by telling them about our action plan."
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge read out a letter from UPA president Sonia Gandhi, which detailed the "immense strain" India is facing. "Economically, our citizens have been squeezed. Politically, our institutions have been undermined. And socially, our fabric stands eviscerated.... The upcoming general elections will be on the faith of restoring democracy in our country."
He added that it is essential for the Opposition to be united if the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo is to be defeated. "The BJP is trying to break away parties, it is trying to break everyone," he said. "Modi may not be corrupt personally, but he is letting his friends have all privileges."
More than 20 national leaders, including former prime minister HD Deve Gowda; former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Arun Shourie; three present chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, N Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy; and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav and Gegong Apang; are at the rally.
Though Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi skipped the rally, the party is represented by senior Congress leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. On Friday, Rahul had written to the TMC chief, extending support to the mega rally. "We commend the great people of Bengal who have historically been at the forefront of defending our ideals. I extend my support to Mamata Di on this show of unity and hope that we send a powerful message of a united India together," the letter read.
"I have met Deve Gowda-ji, Hemant-ji (Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) and Akhilesh Yadav. I will meet other Opposition leaders too," Banerjee told reporters. With Bharatiya Janata Party's recent defeats in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Banerjee has raised the pitch to be united against the saffron party in the 2019 general election. Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, too, have already arrived. The other leaders will either arrive on Friday night or by Saturday morning, the sources said.
Large scale preparations were made to ensure the success of the rally. Besides the huge stages, 20 watch towers, 1,000 microphones and 30 LED screens have been put up so spectators can see and hear the speeches of the leaders clearly. Lakhs of TMC supporters and workers attending the rally, a huge number of them from various corners of the state, have been accommodated in the outskirts of the city and in some auditoriums and stadiums.
As many as 10,000 police personnel have been deployed and around 400 police pickets have been set up to ensure foolproof security, police said. Policemen in plain clothes, personnel of the Rapid Action Force and Quick Response Team have been deployed at the rally venue. Police postings began at 4 am, with senior officials in the rank of assistant commissioners in charge of the five daises set up for the rally, a senior police officer said.
Also, anticipating heavy rush of commuters in the wake of the TMC-led rally at the Brigade Parade Ground, the Kolkata Metro, which operates under the Ministry of Railways, beefed up its security arrangements by deploying additional forces apart from the regular contingent.
With inputs from PTI