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Deve Gowda, Pawar, Akhilesh reach Kolkata for mega opposition rally

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: January 18, 2019  | 21:22 IST

Kolkata, Jan 18 (PTI) The stage is set for a mega rally of opposition parties in Kolkata on Saturday, which the host TMC said would sound the "death knell" for BJP in the general election later this year. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav, socialist leader Sharad Yadav, JMM chief Hemant Soren and former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang have reached Kolkata for the rally. Chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, H D Kumaraswamy, N Chandrababu Naidu, former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's M K Stalin, and dissident BJP lawmaker Shatrughan Sinha are likely to attend the rally being projected as a show of unity against the BJP. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who may skip the rally, extended his support to TMC chief Mamata Banerjee Friday. He hoped it would send a powerful message for a united India. Congress has deputed its leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, to represent the party. In a letter to Banerjee, Gandhi commended the "great people" of West Bengal who had "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," Gandhi wrote. TMC, which is hosting the rally, hopes to use the event as a platform to prop Banerjee as a leader who can "take along" other parties and challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha election, expected to be held in April-May. Banerjee said regional parties would play a role in government formation after the election. "It will be a United India Rally against the misrule of the BJP. It will sound the death knell for the BJP. The saffron party's seat count in the general election will not cross 125," she claimed. Banerjee said she has met some of the leaders and will meet others who are arriving. After arriving at the NSC Bose Airport in Kolkata, Akhilesh Yadav said the nation is "waiting for a new prime minister" and the rally will send a message for change loud and clear. He alleged the BJP-led Centre was responsible for the distress caused to farmers, youth, the poor and traders. Deve Gowda said the entire nation is united to defeat the BJP. He termed the efforts to form a "secular" government after the election "historic". The JD(S) president said those against whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made allegations have come together to form a grand alliance against his party. Sharad Pawar praised Banerjee's efforts to bring opposition parties on one platform. Loktantrik Janata Dal's Sharad Yadav said the TMC chief had put the BJP's seat tally rather higher in her estimates. "They will be much below 125," Sharad Yadav, who is trying to bring RJD, Congress, RLSP and HAM together in Bihar against the JD(U)-BJP-LJP coalition, said. BSP, which has formed an alliance with SP in Uttar Pradesh, will be represented by Satish Chandra Mishra. Despite the parties sharing the stage together, their leaders have said that this rally should only be seen as a show of unity and not be confused with their political equations in UP. "This is an anti-BJP rally. So many opposition parties are taking part in it and we are also part of it. It has nothing to do with Uttar Pradesh politics," SP vice president Kiranmoy Nanda said. The Congress, which has been left out of the SP-BSP alliance, too said the rally should not be confused with UP politics. Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal has said it will not attend the rally in pursuance of its policy of keeping equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), along with the other Left parties, has also decided to not participate in the rally. Ajit Singh and Jayant Choudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which has a base in western Uttar Pradesh and is trying for an understanding with the SP-BSP, will attend the rally. Ahead of the mega rally, the sprawling Brigade Parade Ground has been wrapped in a thick blanket of security. Twenty watch towers have been erected and 1,000 microphones and 30 LED screens are being used to ensure people attending the rally are able to see and hear the speeches clearly. As many as 10,000 police personnel will be deployed and around 400 police pickets have been set up across the city to ensure fool-proof security at the rally. After the rally, leaders would congregate for a tea party Banerjee is to host. PTI PNT AMR AKB SNS ABH ABH

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