A wet February evening in the capital in an election year is the right time for hot tea, pakodas and politics. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went the whole ‘hog’ with the national media at the Press Club of India.
It’s not been very often in recent times that chief ministers have visited the Press Club, but this is Banerjee’s second visit in a year. A promise to have a cup of tea with Press Club members ended up in an impromptu press conference where she made it clear that her mission now was to work for a pre-poll alliance against the BJP-led NDA.
As she sipped tea with members, she realised the media was waiting in the lawn to hear her. Banerjee, who has projected herself to be media-friendly, said she had been a member of the press club in Kolkata as editor of Jaago Bangla, a Trinamool Congress mouthpiece, for eight years and would like to be a Delhi Press Club member. She also spoke of the tulips she saw in her first visit to the Mughal gardens during a visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan and her new book on her political journey, the latest in a series, which would soon be released.
“I didn’t come here for a press conference but one-by-one, ask me fast,” she told the mediapersons. She then launched a tirade on the Modi Government, in typical Mamata style, partly in Hindi and English.
To questions on her own Prime Ministerial ambitions, Banerjee was elusive saying there will be a “people’s Prime Minister. Let us be clear that we have to oust the Narendra Modi Government.” She also said that for a “larger good”, sacrifices have to be made. When asked again by another journalist if she saw herself as a face for the top job, Banerjee quipped, “What did you say? Khamosh (quiet)”.
Midway, it had started drizzling. Banerjee continued to take questions. While she took on the BJP, she was cautious in her responses on potential allies of an anti-NDA formation given the intricacies of state-level politics. Banerjee said she understood the political compulsions of parties which could not join in before the election but they had the option of getting on board in a post-poll scenario. She said AAP was keen on an alliance with Congress in Delhi and it was left to the latter to take a call on it.
On Wednesday evening, six opposition parties had met at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in the capital to discuss the possibilities of an opposition alliance. To a question if Congress was given the task of the Common Minimum Programme, she said that everybody will be involved in it but somebody needed to make the first draft.
Earlier in the day, taking momentary breaks from politics, she put out two tweets—one wishing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on her birthday and another “fondly remembering” Madhubala, who was also born on February 14th.
By the time Banerjee left Press Club in her Maruti Celerio, she had with her two sabudana vadas (sago cutlets) for the road and a Press Club membership form.