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Opposition parties join hands at Mamata rally, vow to oust Modi

twitter-logoPTI | January 19, 2019 | Updated 22:32 IST

(Eds: Updates, adds quotes, details; fresh intro) Kolkata, Jan 19 (PTI) Setting the tone for the Lok Sabha polls, leaders from 22 opposition parties came together at a mega rally here and declared they will fight unitedly to oust the Narendra Modi government which has “passed its expiry date". Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee called for “collective leadership”, raising a slogan for a change at the Centre. “Delhi mein sarkar badal do,” she chanted. "This mega rally is the beginning of the end of the BJP and after there is change in the country, we will hold a victory rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds,” the West Bengal chief minister said. Several speakers called for putting up a joint candidate in each constituency to take on the BJP and “save the country” from what was described as “the poison of communalism and vendetta politics". The issue of prime ministership would be decided after the polls and the regional parties would play an important role, they said The leaders decided to hold opposition rallies next in Andhra Pradesh capital Amravati and New Delhi. Chief ministers N Chandrababu Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal and H D Kumaraswamy attended the parade ground rally. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah, socialist leader Sharad Yadav and DMK leader M K Stalin were there. Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and dissident BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha also sat on the dais. Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel was among the early speakers. Also present were Benoy Tamang of GJM and three leaders from the northeast -- Badruddin Ajmal of AIDUF of Assam, Lalduhawma of Zoram Nationalist Party of Mizoram and former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang, who quit the BJP on Tuesday. The Congress was represented by Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Kharge read out a message from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi wishing success to the rally. Apparently hinting at differences between the parties, Kharge recited a couplet saying their hands should meet even if the hearts don’t. Deve Gowda said a small group of senior leaders should be set up to decide on a roadmap on forming the new government and ensuring good governance. Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called upon the people to defeat the "dangerous" Bharatiya Janata Party government at any cost. "The Modi government has done what Pakistan couldn't do for the last 70 years. They have divided the country on the basis of religion, caste and creed,” he said. “In order to save the country, we have to ensure that the Shah-Modi duo does not return to power,” he said referring also to BJP president Amit Shah. “If they do, they will change the Constitution and turn India into a dictatorship." NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said there is no institution which has not been destroyed by the Modi government. Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra said the SP-BSP alliance has been formed in Uttar Pradesh to ensure that the BJP is ousted. "Factories have closed down, farmers are in distress. The minorities and the Dalits are the worst affected under this government. So the BJP government needs to be uprooted," he said. Echoing him, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said many thought that the SP and the BSP will not be able to clinch an alliance. The tie-up has made the BJP "very insecure", he added. "The BJP is now thinking how to win at least one seat in UP,” he said, in an apparent reference to Modi’s own Varanasi constituency. DMK president M K Stalin said the coming Lok Sabha polls will be akin to the second freedom struggle, this time against the "radical Hinduism" of the saffron party. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi is afraid of a few people, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee," Stalin mocked. Opposition leaders also lashed out at the Modi government over the deal for Rafale military aircraft, accusing it of “crony capitalism”. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said Modi will have sleepless nights after witnessing the opposition meet. Referring to the recent political developments in his own state, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy accused the BJP of horse-trading even while talking about fighting corruption. "Democracy is being reduced to a number game. Legislators are being treated as a commodity,” he said BJP dissident Shatrughan Sinha said he was not afraid of being removed from the party, insisting he would continue to "show the mirror" to it and "call a spade a spade". Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha charged that Modi’s is the first government since Independence which has played mischief with development statistics. Arun Shourie urged opposition leaders to be like Arjuna of the Mahabharata and work with the single aim of removing the BJP government. Sharad Yadav said the country stands at a crucial juncture and after the Lok Sabha polls the "anti-people and corrupt government" will be thrown into the Ganga. Several opposition leaders demanded the use of ballot papers instead of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) which they said were the source of "all sorts of malpractices". After the marathon rally, the leaders formed a four-member committee to recommend electoral reforms, charging the BJP of EVM "manipulation". 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