Convened by Banerjee, who is aiming to project herself as the face of the opposition, the rally at noon is being attended by the who’s who of Indian politics — a former prime minister, several current and former chief ministers and stalwarts from various political outfits from across the country.
More than 20 national leaders, including former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Arun Shourie; three present chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy; and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Dada and Gegong Apang will attend the meeting, TMC sources were quoted as saying in media reports. Most of them have already arrived in the city.
Here are the major highlights from the mega event:
- “Only few hours to go for the historic ‘United India Rally’ at Brigade Parade Grounds. I welcome all national leaders, supporters and lakhs of people to participate in today’s rally to pledge to build a stronger, progressive and united India,” Mamata Banerjee tweeted this morning.
- Although Congress president Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to turn up, he expressed his support for the rally in a letter to Mamata Banerjee early on Friday morning. Two Congress leaders — Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi — will come in his stead.
- Among the other leaders attending the event are Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav.
- According to police, the Brigade Parade Ground can hold around seven lakh people. However, the Trinamool Congress has claimed that 40 lakh people will attend what could well be the biggest political rally of the century.
- Hundreds of Trinamool workers had been toiling for the last few weeks to set up five massive stages with the iconic Victoria Memorial in the background, 20 LED screens and scores of Trinamool Congress flags fluttering in the breeze.
- As part of the security arrangements, the venue will be divided into 22 zones to manage the massive gathering. Police officers of the deputy commissioner rank, besides 3,000 party volunteers, will be present at each such zone to man the crowds.
- The “United India Rally” is seen by many as an attempt to portray Banerjee as a leader who can rally secular forces against the BJP and emerge as a potential challenger to PM Modi. The Trinamool Congress has taken pains to project her as the next Prime Minister of the country.
- The Trinamool chief had been at the forefront of talks for an alliance between major regional parties and the Congress, until new power equations developed after the latter beat the ruling BJP in three Hindi heartland states late last year. However, this rally may succeed in rectifying that.
- The Congress, on the other hand, repeatedly claims that it has not declared Gandhi as its prime ministerial face. It says that the onus lies in ousting the BJP, not pursuing a place in the country’s corridors of power
. TheBJP has downplayed the mega rally. “Leaders who are retired, tired or rejected in their own states are coming to attend Saturday’s event,” said Bengal party chief Dilip Ghosh. The BJP also plans to hold a rally headlined by PM Modi at the Brigade Parade Ground on February 8.