West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a key stakeholder of the proposed anti-BJP federal front for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, on Wednesday played down Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief MK Stalin’s remark favouring Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the Grand Alliance’s candidate for the prime minister’s post. Speaking to reporters outside the state secretariat in Kolkata, Banerjee said that it was not the right time to decide the prime ministerial candidate as the decision would be made by all the political parties of the proposed anti-BJP federal alliance after the 2019 general election results. Banerjee, however, said that she will accept whatever all the alliance partners will decide.
"I am not alone. We are working together. So, whatever all the political parties, who have come together will decide, we will accept that. Now is not the right time. Let us hope for the day when there will be a good change," the West Bengal CM said.
On Sunday, during the statue unveiling of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, MK Stalin had said, "Rahul has got the ability to defeat fascist Modi government. Let's strengthen Rahul Gandhi's hands, let's save the country". However, the proposal put the Opposition unity in peril and was opposed by other alliance partners including Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party and Farooq Abdullah's National Conference. Banerjee’s party had earlier said that such a proposal would be premature and create a rift between the alliance partners.
In Uttar Pradesh, the most crucial state from the view of general elections, Akhilesh Yadav’s SP and Mayawati’s BSP had dumped the Congress and stitched their own alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). According to sources, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance has also finalised the seat-sharing formula. As per the pact, the SP will contest 37 seats while the BSP will get 38. Three seats have been given to Ajit Singh’s RLD while the alliance has decided not to contest two seats - Amethi and Raebareli.
Akhilesh Yadav had also rejected the suggestion of MK Stalin to propose Rahul Gandhi as Opposition's PM face. He said that it was the personal opinion of the DMK chief and the alliance was not of the same view. "People are unhappy with the BJP. Telangana CM, Mamataji and Sharad Pawarji had attempted to bring together all leaders to form an alliance. If someone is giving his opinion, it isn't necessary that alliance has the same opinion," he had said.
Stalin, however, defended his idea and put out a statement, "Projecting Rahul Gandhi for PM is the right thing to unite secular forces." After the Congress party's landslide victory in three heartland states, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, people's perception about Rahul Gandhi's leadership has changed and now he is seen as a potential challenger to Narendra Modi.