Nitish, Navin positive on federal front: Mamata

Kolkata, June 12 (IANS) Amid speculation that the JD-U may end its alliance with the BJP over the rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said she has spoken to her Bihar and Odisha counterparts over her proposal for a federal front of non-Congress and non-BJP regional parties.

Banerjee who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, met Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader K.C. Tyagi at the state secretariat here, two days after her appeal to the regional parties to come together ahead of next year's Lok Sabha polls.

Banerjee said her interactions with the leaders from other parties was a fallout of the appeal she made on Facebook Monday.

"I made an appeal through Facebook for setting up a non-Congress and non-BJP federal front. I have already discussed the matter with (Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal chief) Navin Patnaik and (JD-U leader and Bihar chief minister) Nitish Kumar. They have responded positively," Banerjee said at the state secretariat after her talks with Tyagi.

"We will meet at an appropriate time," Banerjee said, adding that some other leaders including Babulal Marandi had met her in the past.

Referring to her meeting with Tyagi, whose party is still a constituent of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, she said there was no guarantee that a particular party would continue to sail with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance or the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in the future.

"Anyone can change course any time," she said.

Tyagi, who described his visit a "courtesy call", said "both the UPA and the BJP have failed". He spoke of the long-standing relations between Banerjee and Kumar, but pointed out that the Trinamool chief would not lead the federal front.

"Mamataji will be part of the federal front and not the pilot of the front," he said.

Banerjee's talks with Nitish Kumar come against the backdrop of the buzz that the JD-U is on the verge of deserting the NDA in the wake of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's elevation as the BJP's election campaign committee chief.

The JD-U, particularly Nitish Kumar, is strongly opposed to projection of Modi as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate as they fear the step would alienate the minorities.

Political analysts feel Modi's elevation as the BJP campaign committee head was a precursor to him being projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate.

However, opposition Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) pooh poohed her call for a federal front.

The CPI-M said it would be a damp squib.

"This is a joke. I don't know since when she (Banerjee) has become federal. She is utterly unitary. When did she stand for federal structures?" CPI-M leader Suryakanta Mishra said here.

"She was with the BJP-led NDA as well as Congress-led UPA. Now I don't know with whom she would tie up. She is talking about all these as a bargaining chip. But who would come to answer her call? Is anyone there?" the CPI-M leader wondered.

State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya said Banerjee should say openly whether she wanted to become the prime minister.

"She should name the prime ministerial candidate of her alliance. Or if she wants to be PM, she should say so," said Bhattacharya.

Banerjee Monday appealed to all non-Congress, non-BJP regional parties to launch a united fight, saying they needed to walk together to free the country from "misrule" and "anti-people" decisions.

"Let us stand together. Let us talk together. Let us decide a plan of action for the next Lok Sabha elections," she had said.

Since leaving the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance last September, Banerjee has been pitching for all non-Congress and non-BJP parties to rally together ahead of the next general elections.