The Trinamool Congress and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) are in talks – GFP chief Vijay Sardesai met Trinamool boss Mamata Banerjee today – over a deal to fight next year’s Assembly election together.
No agreement was announced after Ms Banerjee and Mr Sardesai met, but talks will continue.
“We discussed the matter… let’s work together to fight against the BJP. So, it is their (the Goa party’s) decision (now)”, Ms Banerjee said, adding, “We want to avoid division of votes. Regional and local parties can work together and give a good fight to the BJP.”
The Bengal Chief Minister underlined her belief that strong regional parties were key to ensuring that the BJP is defeated – both at the centre and in states – and building a “strong” central government.
“We want to give seats to regional parties… I want to see regional parties become strong. And we want a union of states. The federal structure should be strong… every state must be strong. And if every state is strong, then the centre will also be strong,” she said.
For his part, Mr Sardesai praised Ms Banerjee’s leadership qualities but appeared unconvinced over the Trinamool’s request for a merger, rather than an alliance. He told NDTV party supporters would see a merger with the Trinamool as a “sell out” and as compromising the GFP’s strong regional identity.
He also said that even the chance of being named as the chief ministerial candidate – should the GFP agree to merge with the Trinamool – could convince him of the benefits of a merger.
“This talk of merger is a fast-forward step. You can go to a small party and say, ‘merge with the bigger party’, but a regional party with a clear ideology – Goa, Goan and Goan-ness – cannot be compromised overnight. We have to work together,” he told NDTV.
“It is not like an acquisition. This will be against public sentiment. People will think a merger is a compromise (of the Goa party’s ideals). Elections are a battle of perceptions and this – a merger with the Trinamool – will mean we will lose the battle before it begins,” he said.
Vijay Sardesai served as Deputy Chief Minister (in 2019, under the BJP’s Pramod Sawant), and is likely to only get a similar post if he chooses to ally with the Trinamool rather than merge.
Asked about the chance to become Chief Minister (if he were to merge), Mr Sardesai said: “It is not about myself. To get my face up there I can’t sacrifice party ideology.”
The Goa Party had earlier approached the Congress for an alliance, but the GOP turned down the offer and earned a scathing rebuke today from Mamata Banerjee. She accused the Congress of making the BJP “more powerful” by failing to recognise the importance of regional and local parties.
“Modiji is going to be more powerful because of the Congress… because the Congress is the BJP’s TRP (television ratings points). If they (the Congress) cannot take a decision… the country will suffer. Why (should) the country suffer… they have had enough opportunity,” she said.
“I am not going to discuss about the Congress because that is not my party. I have a regional party without any support… and we are fortunate to form a government with the people’s support. I will not talk about any other party. Let them decide,” Ms Banerjee added.
In 2017 the Congress won 17 seats and the BJP 13 in the 40-member Assembly. But the BJP allied with regional parties, including the GFP, to form the government.