Kolkata, May 3, 2019-
Predicting that the BJP-led NDA would fall short of the majority mark of 272 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, Trinamool Congress has said regional parties will have a “big say” in the formation of next government but remained evasive on the issue of Prime Ministership.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien, while expressing confidence that his party would have the third largest tally, also predicted that the NDA would break after the elections and “many” non-BJP parties would work together to form a government at the Centre.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “trying to create an impression that he is ahead” which is nothing but a defensive tactic being projected as an “offensive” one, O’Brien, TMC’s Parliamentary Party leader in the Rajya Sabha, told here.
“The reality is that NDA is not even close to 272 (the majority mark). This is all actually defensive tactics but he (Modi) is trying to pretend that he is being on the offensive,” he said.
TMC and the BJP are locked in a direct fight for the 42 Lok Sabha seats of West Bengal, with the saffron party giving a big push to its campaigning to ensure it bags a substantial number of seats here at the cost of ruling party of the state.
The Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah have addressed several rallies in West Bengal over the last few weeks in a bid to raise the party’s poll prospects in the state where polling has already been held in 18 seats in four phases.
Speaking about the likely poll-poll scenario, O’Brien insisted that the BJP will not be able to lead the NDA to form a government in New Delhi.
“There are many parties which do not want to be (with them), especially the smaller and north east parties, which always stay with those forming the government,” the 58-year-old famous quizmaster-cum-author-cum-ad man said.
“The NDA will break up after the results and maybe, all the north east parties will go,” he predicted and asked, “Why can’t these parties work with us?”
In such a backdrop, all parties, which are not with the NDA, would work together, he added.
“All I am telling you now is that the regional parties will have a big say (in forming an anti-BJP government),” he asserted.
Asked whether the Congress would be part of the alternate coalition, the TMC leader said, “Our position is very clear. We work with all to defeat the BJP”.
He went on to add, “The Congress and the CPI-M are working to defeat the Trinamool in Bengal. There is a Bengal match to be played and there is another match in Delhi and we understand there is difference between the two.”
On whether his party would extend support to Rahul Gandhi for the Prime Ministership if the Congress does well, O’Brien said, “Such questions are to be answered after May 23… If the Congress gets 272 seats (in the 543-seat Lok Sabha), they will choose whoever they want as PM.”
Asked to respond to Modi and Shah regularly ridiculing TMC chief Mamata Banerjee over her purported ambition to become the Prime Minister by contesting so few seats, O’Brien said, “We are100 per cent certain that we will continue to be the third largest party after the ongoing polls. We acknowledge two parties (BJP and Congress) may have bigger numbers than us.”
Attacking the Prime Minister, he said, “I am not surprised at Modi’s remarks, as he does not believe in the Constitution of India that says 272 MPs will elect the leader. “
He went on to add, “He has to go. All of us are very clear that he will have to go.”
Lambasting the Modi government, the TMC leader said it was destroying all institutions.
“Parliament’s principal job is to legislate and scrutinise bills. 70 per cent of bills were scrutinised in India before the BJP came to power. But under Modi, only about 20 per cent of bills get scrutinized,” the Rajya Sabha member said.
O’Brien did not agree that the contours of the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) envisaged at the January 19 Brigade Parade ground rally had failed to crystalise.
“Everything is fine and Mahagatbandhan is absolutely in place. The BJP wants to pretend that it is not in place,” he said.
O’Brien, who had worked for years as a creative head of an advertisement agency, quoted legendary advertisement guru David Ogilvy to punch a hole in the BJP campaign.
“Ogilvy said if you have a good product, it may sell with bad advertising. The BJP sold a bad product with good advertising in 2014… They have sold all the dreams in 2014. Had they delivered even half of what they promised, they would have got three-fourth majority. But they have been an all-round failure,” he said. (Agency)