West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said it will 'depend on the situation' who becomes the face of the Opposition to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party, but added she has no problem if someone other than her leads.
Banerjee, who is on her first visit to the national capital after defeating the BJP in West Bengal, said her party Trinamool Congress' slogan for the assembly election -- Khela Hobe -- will now reverberate across the country and it is time for 'sachhe din' (truthful days) instead of 'achhe din' (good days).
Banerjee is being positioned by her party as the face of the opposition in their bid to oust the BJP in the 2024 general election.
The CM herself seemed ambivalent about it.
"I want to help all the opposition parties to bell the cat. I don't want to be a leader, but a simple cadre," she said on the leadership issue.
"I am not a political astrologer. It depends on the situation, structure. I have no problem if someone else leads. When the matter is discussed we can decide. I cannot impose," Banerjee told a select group of reporters here when asked if she would be the face of the Opposition.
When the election nears, there will be many faces to fight the saffron party, she said.
"The BJP may be big in terms of the size. But from the political angle, the Opposition will be stronger than the BJP. They will make history," Banerjee said.
The TMC supremo, who is among the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the opposition parties will sit together and decide who would become the candidate against him.
Asked if she has decided on a slogan for a united opposition like 'Khela Hobe' which is used in her assembly poll campaign, Banerjee quipped in Hindi, "Poore desh mein khela hoga (The game will be played across the country).
"It is a continuous process... When Modi will fight the next election, it will be with the country," the chief minister said implying that it will be Modi versus a united opposition in the next Lok Sabha polls.
"I want to see sachhe din, bahut achhe din dekh liya (I want to see truthful days, have seen enough of good days," the Trinamool Congress chief said, in a jibe at the BJP's 2014 poll slogan of 'achhe din aane wale hai' (Good days are coming).
The TMC leader, who is on a five-day visit to New Delhi, met Congress Chairperson Sonia Gandhi over tea and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
On Tuesday, she had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and met other Congress leaders.
Banerjee said she also spoke to Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad over the phone.
Asked about her thoughts on the Congress party and its relationship with the TMC, Banerjee said that her bond with Sonia Gandhi goes decades back.
She refused to comment on the fortunes of the Congress, saying it is an internal matter of the party, but added that even Sonia Gandhi wants a united Opposition.
"I would not like to comment on their internal matter and I don't like to interfere in the workings of other political parties," she said.
She further said that in politics, alliances and tie-ups are forged and goalposts are changed.
"In Uttar Pradesh, if the leaders concerned have to win against the BJP, they have to come together. If someone like Mayawati wants to fight alone, she will. What can I do about it?
"I respect all of them, as much respect as they deserve," she said when asked about regional parties failing to come together against the BJP.
She said that while every regional party is strong, they will have to have 'sincerity and solidarity' to ensure that there is no division of votes.
The TMC leader expressed optimism that more regional parties will take a stand in the coming days.
"If all regional parties come together, it will be stronger than the one-party system," she said.
Asked if she would reach out to parties that are considered to be friendly to the BJP, Banerjee said that she had a good relationship with Biju Janata Dal's Naveen Patnaik, Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party's Jagan Mohan Reddy, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's M K Stalin and other opposition leaders.
"Aaj agar nahi ho sake to kal hojayega. When there's a political storm, you cannot stop it," she said.
However, when asked about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, she said, "He is with the BJP right now. If he leaves the BJP, let's see then."
Banerjee seemed to lose her cool when a query was raised over her being called an 'outsider'.
"Narendra Modi comes from Gujarat and can be an insider here. Mamata Banerjee comes from Bengal and she is considered as an outsider... I am a common person, so I can talk to everyone," she said.
On the Pegasus row, she said the situation was more serious than Emergency and accused the Centre of being unresponsive.
"Everywhere they are sending ED, IT for raids. Here there is no response. In a democracy, the government has to respond.
"The situation is very serious, it's more serious than the Emergency," the Trinamool Congress chief said.
Banerjee alleged her phone has been hacked. When I talk to (strategist) Prashant Kishor, (nephew and TMC general secretary) Abhishek Banerjee, my phone is hacked.
Please remember that, she added.