New Delhi: Pitching for a "formidable front" against the BJP, former Prime Minister and JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda has said he was not averse to projecting TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the Opposition's prime ministerial face for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Not averse to projecting Mamata as prime ministerial face, says Deve Gowda
In an interview to PTI in Delhi over the weekend, the former Prime Minister noted that while the formation of a third front was still in the "early stage", Ms. Banerjee is "trying her best" to bring all the non-BJP parties together.
Ms. Banerjee is pursuing the task of the formation of a federal front seriously after the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that excluded 40 lakh people from the list in the eastern State, Mr. Gowda said.
Mr Gowda's remarks come amid reports that the Congress and other opposition parties favour leaving the issue of a prime ministerial candidate for the post-election phase to ensure opposition unity.
The remark also comes days after top Congress sources indicated that the party will not mind a nominee for the top post from any Opposition alliance which does not have the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The former Prime Minister, whose JD(S) has formed a coalition government in Karnataka with the support of the Congress, said the latter will play a crucial role in forging opposition unity in the bid to dislodge the BJP from power.
Asked if he would support the TMC chief as the prime ministerial face of the opposition, Mr. Gowda said: "Most welcome if Mamata is projected as PM. Indira Gandhi ruled as prime minister for 17 years. Why should we [men] alone become PM? Why not Mamata or Mayawati?"
Indicating he is not opposed to a woman Prime Minister, Mr. Gowda said he had piloted the women's reservation bill in Parliament way back in 1996.
'Sense of fear'
Noting that the JD(S) has not made any effort to unify regional parties so far, he however, said the regional party is prepared to cooperate with other parties to fight the BJP.
"It is because there is a sense of fear in the country. There is a suffocating atmosphere for minorities in States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat. A formidable front is necessary to take on the BJP in 2019," Mr. Gowda said.
'Crucial Congress role'
Observing that the clamour for a political alternative to the BJP will gradually gain momentum, Mr. Gowda stressed that the Congress as a national party will also play a crucial role.
"I want to see how things will shape up in the next 2-3 months," he added.
Mr. Gowda also said that while the Congress and his party would fight together in Karnataka during 2019 general polls, the issue of seat sharing has not been discussed yet. Karnataka accounts for 28 Lok Sabha seats.