West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday assured her counterpart from Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, that her party would support him in his fight against the central ordinance to control appointments and transfer of bureaucrats in the city-state.
Kejriwal, who had come along with his party comrade and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann as part of a nationwide tour to garner support for his fight against the Centre's ordinance on control of services in Delhi, held a nearly hour-long meeting here with Banerjee at the state secretariat.
The Delhi chief minister told newspersons that a forthcoming vote in Rajya Sabha on a bill to convert the central ordinance into law, will be a ”semi-final before the 2024 elections.”
He alleged that the saffron party ”buys MLAs, uses CBI, ED to try to break” opposition governments, besides using governors to disturb non-Bharatiya Janata Party governments such as in ”Bengal, Punjab, Telangana and Andhra”.
Banerjee told newspersons, "We support AAP in the fight against the central ordinance ...Request all parties not to vote for BJP's law (on controlling appointments in Delhi)."
She added, ”It is a grand opportunity to defeat the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in the Rajya Sabha as all the opposition parties are united on the issue of the ordinance.”
The feisty TMC leader also quipped, "The double engine (BJP rule in both state and Ccentre) has become a troubled engine" and added mysteriously, "It's only a matter of six months (that the central government will stay in power) ...But if a miracle occurs, they might have to go before that too."
Analysts however could not fathom whether there was any basis for the statement that the Trinamool Congress supremo made.
Kejriwal and Mann, whose party had earlier said it was "time for agni pariksha (trial by fire)" for opposition parties, also turned the impromptu press conference held after the meeting of the leaders, into an attack on the BJP and central government.
The AAP leader and Delhi chief minister said, "BJP has made a mockery of democracy -- where it cannot form a government, it buys MLAs, uses CBI, ED to try to break the government, governors to disturb non-BJP governments such as Bengal and Punjab".
He went on to predict, "This (contest in Parliament) will be a semi-final before the 2024 elections.”
The bone of contention between the Aam Aadmi Party government and the BJP has been the central government ordinance setting up a National Capital Civil Service Authority which overturned a Supreme Court order last week giving control of services, excluding those related to police, public order and land, to the elected government in Delhi.
The new ordinance takes away these powers from the Delhi state government and gives them to a committee which would be effectively controlled by the Centre.
A central law has to be brought to replace the ordinance and opposition parties are hoping to stall that in the upper house or Rajya Sabha when it comes up for debate.
Interestingly, none of the chief ministers mentioned the Congress party in connection with the unity they were trying to forge over the ordinance.
The largest opposition party has as yet not made clear its position on the ordinance, though senior Congress leader from Delhi Ajay Maken on Tuesday strongly opposed extending any support to the Delhi chief minister on the issue of the Centre's ordinance on the administration of services in the national capital.
Kejriwal has earlier met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the ordinance issue and the latter has extended full support to AAP in its tussle with the Centre on the matter.
The AAP chief will also be meeting Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar on Wednesday in Mumbai.
The ordinance has to be ratified by Parliament within six months. For which, the Centre will have to bring a bill for its passage in both Houses of Parliament, the opposition hopes.
Earlier in the morning, Kejriwal had tweeted, "Today, I am starting my journey around the country for the rights of the people of Delhi. The Supreme Court had passed a judgment giving justice to the people of Delhi. The Centre snatched away those rights by bringing the ordinance".
"When this comes in the Rajya Sabha, it has to be ensured that it not passed. I will meet the leaders of all political parties and ask for support," he added.
Reacting to Tuesday's developments, the BJP termed Kejriwal's trip to meet his counterpart in Kolkata as "political tourism" of prime ministerial aspirants ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
”The political tourism of several Prime Ministerial aspirants from the opposition camp has started ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. But this will not yield any result, as there is no vacancy for the prime minister's post in 2024," BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said.
Reacting to the AAP-TMC leadership meeting, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "The AAP and the TMC follow the same policy of trying to weaken the Congress and increase their strength, thus helping the BJP."
Questioning the TMC's "credibility", CPI-M central committee member Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the TMC has mostly avoided voting against bills brought by the Modi government.