West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee left for Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon and said at the Kolkata airport that she would meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and will try to meet Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray as well during her three-day trip.
“Although Uddhav has recovered from Covid, doctors are not allowing him to see visitors to minimise the risk of infection. I will still try to meet him. His son, Aaditya, will meet me at the hotel where I will stay. I will meet Sharad Pawar as well and interact with some members of the civil society and business community during the next two days,” Banerjee said before boarding her flight.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders said Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut will also meet the Bengal chief minister.
Banerjee did not say if any politician from Maharashtra will join the TMC during her visit. This, however, did not stop speculations since former Congress Lok Sabha member and ex-cricketer Kirti Azad, former Janata Dal (United) Rajya Sabha member Pavan Varma and former Congress MP from Haryana, Ashok Tanwar, joined the TMC in her presence when she visited Delhi last week.
Hours after she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 24, former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma joined the TMC along with 11 other Congress legislators in the north-eastern state. This overnight move made the TMC the biggest opposition force in the 60-member Meghalaya legislative assembly where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is part of the ruling coalition.
Goa’s former Congress chief minister Luizinho Faleiro joined the TMC in September along with some local Congress leaders. Banerjee has already toured BJP-ruled Goa where her party will contest the coming assembly polls.
The TMC also contested the recent civic elections in BJP-ruled Tripura but could win only one seat. It is now preparing for the 2023 assembly polls.
The defections have widened the distance between the TMC and Congress with the Bengal’s ruling party declaring that Banerjee is the real face of the opposition.
The TMC even stayed away when the Congress on Tuesday protested in Parliament against the suspension of 11 opposition Rajya Sabha members, including two from the TMC. The members were suspended for disorderly conduct during the monsoon session.
Banerjee left for Mumbai a day after she decided to amend the TMC’s constitution so that leaders from other states can be accommodated in the working committee that she heads. This is being seen as part of her plan to contest elections in other states.
The decision to transform the TMC working committee into a national-level body was taken at a meeting attended by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who joined TMC in March, Pavan Varma, Ashok Tanwar, Mukul Sangma and 11 other Congress legislators from Meghalaya.
“All members of the TMC working committee are from West Bengal. Since our party is now expanding in other states, the leadership decided to amend the constitution so that leaders from all regions can be inducted,” TMC’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien, said after Monday’s meeting at the chief minister’s south Kolkata residence.
Taking a swipe at the chief minister, Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said she has gone to Mumbai to “buy retired leaders.”
“The TMC has raised a lot of funds through corruption. The chief minister is using this money to buy retired leaders of some political parties. Possibly she will try the same in Mumbai as well,” Majumdar said.