In a show of strength, a galaxy of Opposition leaders attended a mage rally organised by West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.
Over 20 political parties, except the Biju Janata Dal and the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front, took part in the massive rally.
The rally -- held at Kolkata's Brigade Parade Grounds and attended by lakhs of people -- saw the participation of Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin, National Conference head Farooq Abdullah and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, among other prominent political faces.
The Opposition leaders targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party over various issues ranging from Rafale deal to alleged religious intolerance.
Banerjee wrapped up the event by heralding the "expiry date" of the Modi government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, called the mahagathbandhan a combine of those he prevented from looting India.
Meanwhile, A four-member committee, comprising Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress), Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Satish Mishra (Bahujan Samaj Party) and Arvind Kejriwal (Aam Aadmi Party), has been formed after reports of electronic voting machine manipulation by the Bharatiya Janata Party, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said on Saturday.
In addition to evaluating the functioning of EVMs and finding ways to stop any malpractice, the committee will suggest electoral reforms to the Election Commission before the Lok Sabha polls, Banerjee added.
Expiry date of the Modi govt is over: Mamata
Issuing a war cry Delhi mein sarkar badal do (change the government at the Centre), Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee asserted that the "expiry date" of the Modi government is over and a united opposition will win the coming general elections.
At the rally, she also promised to work together along with other opposition parties.
Who will be the prime minister will be decided after the polls, she said.
Claiming that BJP's days at the Centre are numbered, she told the mammoth gathering that the "expiry date of the Modi government is over".
Criticising the BJP, she said, "There is courtesy in politics, but BJP does not follow it. Those who are not with BJP are called thieves."
Banerjee also claimed that the BJP does not give respect to many of its own senior
leaders and people like Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari are ignored in the saffron party.
"Modi and his associates are now talking of collective leadership, but if BJP wins the Lok Sabha polls these leaders will be ignored again," she said.
Noting that the present situation in the country is of "super Emergency", Banerjee said it is worse than that imposed by Indira Gandhi and raised the slogan of Badal do, badal do, Delhi mein sarkar badal
do (change the government).
Not afraid if BJP removes me: Shatrughan
Disgruntled BJP leader Shatrughan Sinhacalled for changing the government in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and said he was not afraid of being removed from the ruling party.
He insisted he would continue to "show mirror" to the party and call "a spade a spade".
Sinha has been at odds with his party over several issues and has criticised the demonetisation exercise and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. He has said he was attending the rally hosted by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata as a representative of the Rashtra Manch, a political action group launched by former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.
"My elder brother Yashwant Sinha was saying that after this I will be definitely removed from the party, I told him koi baat nahi hai (no problem)," he said at the rally attended by several opposition leaders, including from the AAP and the RJD.
Known for his powerful dialogues in Hindi movies, Sinha said, "He is in Bharatiya Janata Party but before that he is with Bharat ki janata."
"If you keep suppressing facts, people will continue to say chaukidar chor hain," he said, using the word Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been employing to criticise the prime minister on the Rafale jet deal issue.
Sinha, who served as a Union minister in the NDA cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said there was lokshahi (democracy) during Vajpayee's tenure and now it's tanashahi (dictatorship).
BJP has forged ties with CBI and ED, says Akhilesh
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the coming together of the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party has led to a wave of happiness in the country and left a worried BJP to hold meeting after meeting to devise a strategy to win even one seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Yadav also sought to give a reply to the BJP questioning the opposition parties about their prime ministerial candidate.
"They ask, who is PM candidate of opposition parties... We say people will decide the PM candidate from our side. But from their side, this name (Narendra Modi) has disappointed the country, who is your another name?" Yadav said.
He said while opposition parties have entered into alliance with the common people, the BJP has forged ties with the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement directorate.
The SP chief sat on the dais next to BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, who was participating in the rally as a representative of his party chief Mayawati.
Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Choudhury, who are engaged in discussions with the SP to join their political alliance in UP, were also present on the stage.
Yadav said the people across the country were celebrating the arrival of the New Year and this happiness will increase manifold when they will have a new prime minister.
Be Arjun and pitch united Oppn candidates to win LS poll: Shourie
Former Union minister Arun Shourie asked the opposition to work together to throw out the BJP government at the Centre in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
The opposition parties should unitedly pitch single candidates against the BJP contestants in the country to win the Lok Sabha poll.
Shourie said there are no two opinions on the need to oust the BJP.
"We (opposition parties and leaders) have to have a single aim -- that is ousting the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election. Become Arjun (of Mahabaharata)," he urged the opposition leaders.
"It will not be an easy work - pitching a single opposition candidate in each seat against the BJP. But we must sacrifice for the country, with a sense of love for it," Shourie, who was minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government said.
He said the Modi-Shah duo of BJP has lost the trust of the people. "This government has lied on all counts ... Modiji knows that his hold over the country has loosened".
Congratulating Banerjee for holding the opposition rally, Shourie said other opposition parties should also hold such rallies and each of them should attend those and not merely send representatives.
"The Bengal tigress has given the call to oust BJP. I am sure it will be successful," he added.
EVM is chor machine: Farooq Abdullah
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah called the EVM the "chor machine" and demanded that the ballot paper system be brought back for the sake of transparency.
"It is not the question of ousting any single person (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) but of saving the country and honouring the sacrifices of those who fought for its freedom," he said.
"The EVM is chor machine. Honestly speaking, it is so. Its use must be put to an end. Nowhere in the world is the machine used. The opposition parties should approach the Election Commission and the President of India to stop the use of the EVM and bring back the old ballot papers for the sake of transparency," he said.
He blamed the BJP for the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and said people are being divided on religious lines. "People are being branded as Pakistanis. But all people -- right from Ladakh to elsewhere -- want to continue in India.
"I am a Muslim and I love India, my country," he said.
Continuing his tirade against the BJP, he said it stood for the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament but did not pass the Women's Reservation Bill.
Urging for a united fight by opposition parties in the coming Lok Sabha election, he said the prime minister can be decided after the poll results.
"We have to fight and oust BJP. We have to come together to put up a one-to-one fight against it. We should fight together to strengthen our country," he said and hoped the new government will take the country forward.
PM is allowing Adani, Ambani to get benefits: Kharge
Representing the Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge said party chief Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi had sent their good wishes for the rally.
At the rally, Kharge, the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, read out a message from Sonia Gandhi, highlighting the "crisis" looming over the country with farmers and fishermen living under immense strain.
Under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, the economic and political institutions of India were being undermined, he said, adding that the upcoming Lok Sabha polls will be for the restoration of democracy in the country.
Kharge, who participated at the rally as the emissary of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, said, "Till we (opposition parties) unite, we will have to continue seeing Modi and Shah trample democracy and the secular values of the country."
Congress's national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi was also present at the rally.
"Never before have we seen such vendetta politics... When Amit Shah did 100 rallies in Uttar Pradesh, no one questioned, but when the RJD organised a rally, it got an Income Tax notice," Singhvi said.
"(Prime Minister) Narendra Modi makes fun of the opposition alliance, but his party made the most unethical alliance in Kashmir. What would he say about it?" Singhvi
Stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi time and again referred to his na khaunga na khane dunga (neither will I eat nor allow anyone to eat) slogan, Kharge wondered what the PM was actually doing.
"He himself is not eating, but he is allowing Adani, Ambani and his corporate friends to benefit," he said.
Going by Modi's promise of creating two crore jobs every year, 9.5 crore jobs should have been created by now, the Congress leader said, adding that instead, the government had rendered 1.6 crore people jobless.
Referring to demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, he alleged that the two measures had triggered an economic crisis in the country.
At the end of his speech, Kharge said in Hindi, "Manzil door hain, rasta kathin hain, phir bhi pahuchna hain. Dil mile na mile, kamse kam haath mila kar chalo (The destination is far and the road is difficult but still, we have to reach there. Whether our hearts meet or not, we should walk holding hands)."
After Kharge's speech, Banerjee thanked Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for their good wishes for the rally and for sending the two senior party leaders to the function.
Modi govt's sologan is sabka saath sabka vinash: Yashwant Sinha
Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government saying that this was the first government after Independence which has been playing "mischief" with the developmental statistics.
Sinha who quit the BJP recently said, under the present regime while praising the government was desh bhakti (patriotism), criticising it is desh drohi (sedition).
"After Independence this is the first government which has been presenting decorated and inflated developmental statistics to befool people," the former Union finance minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government said apparently referring to the Niti Aayog downgrading GDP growth rate during UPA time.
Sinha, who was in a committee to find solution to the Kashmir problem said when he had suggested to talk to the cross-section of people in the environment of love, he was branded a "Pakistani agent".
From the dais itself, he urged NC leader Farooq Abdullah did he spoke wrong on this count, to which the NC leader nodded in negative.
The former Union minister made fun of Modi's government's slogan of sabka saath sabka vikas and said the apt slogan would be sabka saath sabka vinash.
He said now he is left with no personal desire but to see that this "anti-people" government is ousted from power.
Modi is a publicity PM: Chandrababu Naidu
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said the BJP has betrayed the people of the country by reneging on all the promises it had made before the 2014 general elections.
Naidu said the BJP has failed on its promises of a corruption-free government, to bring back black money from foreign shores and double farmers' income, among several other assurances.
"The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is a publicity PM and not a performance PM," he said Naidu claimed that Modi has cheated the farmers of the country, who are ending their lives under financial stress.
"He promised doubling farmers' income, instead they are committing suicide now," the Andhra CM said.
Alleging corrupt dealings in buying Rafale fighter jets from French firm Dassault, he said 36 aircraft were being bought at the price of 126 jets.
Naidu said demonetisation caused immense hardship to people and called the GST a "fraud".
Unemployment has increased and new jobs were not being created due to lack of economic growth, he said.
"The BJP is trying to divide the people of the country and playing dirty politics... The government is misusing the ED and the CBI to take on opposition leaders and parties," Naidu said.
He also claimed that electronic voting machines were a "big fraud" and demanded that paper ballots be brought back in the upcoming general elections.
Oppn should forget their differences and fight BJP: Deve Gowda
Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda said with the general elections close at hand, the opposition parties should forget their differences and come together to fight the BJP unitedly.
The Janata Dal-Secular supremo said a small group of senior leaders should be formed to decide on a roadmap on how they will ensure good governance.
The herculean task of seat sharing for the coming Lok Sabha elections has to be addressed to ensure direct fight against the BJP, he said.
"People want a new government," he said addressing a mammoth rally.
"A stable government is needed to build a strong nation, but after getting 282 seats in the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi instead of building a strong nation, wants to destroy the secular nature of the country and destroy all constitutional institutions," Deve Gowda said.
Stating that a question often asked is who would be the prime minister after Modi, he said the opposition leaders must have confidence that they can give a stable government for five years. This must be ensured by the galaxy of leaders congregated at the rally.
Gowda said Modi claims that coalition government is unstable and cannot achieve anything, but the opposition has to show that it can give a stable government and develop the nation.
Referring to the coalition government led by him between June 1996- April 1997, he said it had sanctioned the Bogibeel bridge in Assam, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi recently.
"Delhi Metro was also cleared by my government, 36 crore poor people were helped through rice, wheat and kerosene oil at subsidised prices," Gowda said, stressing that a coalition government can ensure development of people and the nation.
We must defeat the corrupt Modi govt to save country: Hardik Patel
Lauding Mamata Banerjee for her clarion call to defeat BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections, Patidar leader Hardik Patel called upon people to fulfil her desire in its true spirit to save the country and democracy.
"We must save our country and democracy for the welfare of the nation," he said.
Stating that the opposition parties are fighting against "thieves", Patel said while Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had given a call to fight against the goro (Britishers), "we are fighting against choro (thieves)."
The young Gujarat leader thanked Banerjee for bringing all major opposition leaders on one platform and pointing towards jansalab (mass gathering) at the grounds said it was an indication that BJP is on its way out of power.
If Modi wins in 2019, elections will never take place: Kejriwal
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called upon people to defeat the "dangerous" BJP government at the Centre at any cost.
Stating that the country was at the crossroads of a serious crisis, he said there is need for immediate change of the Modi government to save the country and democracy.
"If the (Narendra) Modi-(Amit) Shah combine continues to rule the country by winning the 2019 elections, it will change the Constitution and further elections will never take place. A fascist regime will set in as was done by Hitler in Germany," Kejriwal said at TMC's mega opposition rally here.
He accused the BJP of creating enmity among people in the name of religion.
"It was Pakistan's dream to split this country into pieces. This BJP government is going ahead in that direction by creating enmity among people and dividing the nation on the lines of religion, language..." Kejriwal said at the Brigade Parade Grounds.
Slamming the central government, he said in the last five years, it has failed to create employment opportunities and farmers were facing acute crises.
"Demonetisation has taken away all the scope of employment and Modi's friendly insurance companies were making money at the cost of farmers," the Delhi CM alleged.
He added that the objective of the general elections was not to find the next prime minister, but to oust Modi and his party.
Lok Sabha polls will be second fight for Independence: Stalin
DMK president M K Stalin said the upcoming general elections will be akin to the second freedom struggle for people of India to fight against the "radical Hinduism" of the BJP.
Stalin said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "afraid" of a few people, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"The next (Lok Sabha) elections will be the second fight for Independence. We will stop this poison of Hindutva and radical Hinduism from spreading. Our call is to defeat Modi and save the country," he said.
Criticising the central government, Stalin also accused it of working for corporate houses.
"If Modi is back in power, the country will go back 50 years," he said.