Tens of thousands of workers and supporters converged on the Brigade Parade ground in Kolkata on Saturday to attend West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s mega anti-BJP rally organised to raise voices against the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. Leaders from at least 20 Opposition parties are present at the United Opposition Rally.
Mamata Banerjee reached the venue almost an hour before the rally was scheduled to begin.
Here is what some of the speakers at the rally.
Gegong Apang, former Arunachal Pradesh CM: “The people in Delhi are diving the country, especially the Northeast. The Citizenship Amendment Bill is an example how a political party is dividing the country.
“I have been fortunate enough to work under Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narsimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowdaji, who is present here, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. All those people believed in federal democracy. But the last four years have been testing time for Indian democracy.
“In Arunachal Pradesh democracy is going through the worst phase. A former chief minister of my state has committed suicide while another minister has suffered a mysterious death. But the party in power in Arunachal does not want a CBI inquiry. The CBI has become a puppet in their hands. We all know how democratically-elected governments are being tortured by those sitting in power. It is a threat to the country’s democratic ethos.”
Farooq Abdullah, National Conference: “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.
“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…
“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.”
Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress: “The country at large is under immense strain. Economically, citizens have been stripped. Politically, institutions have been undermined. We need to defeat the forces that are trying to sabotage the Constitution of India. This rally marks an important attempt to galvanize the leaders to fight the arrogant Modi government. This is the message given by Sonia Gandhi on behalf of Congress. Until we are one, we will not be able to fight this government. I appeal to all leaders to unite to save our democracy. Farmers are dying but PM Modi is feeding people like Anil Ambani. Unemployment is rising under Modi’s rule. The government has failed the country through demonetisation and Rafale fraud.”
Sharad Yadav, former MP: “Not one institution is left, which has not been destroyed by the current govt at Centre.”
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress MP: “Clouds are parting. A rainbow of political parties is forming. The time for a coalition has arrived.”
MK Stalin, DMK: “The 2019 elections in India will be India’s second freedom struggle. The BJP at the centre is sowing the seeds of hatred and divisionism among people. We have to stop that any cost. That’s why I call it India’s second freedom struggle.”
Yashwant Sinha, former BJP MP: “This is not about removing one man from power. We have come together to defeat an ideology. Today there isn’t one democratic institution that the current dispensation hasn’t destroyed. The country’s economy is in doldrums; this is the first government that plays around and exaggerates facts and figures. You all know what the ground reality is and that the government wants to divide society and country.”
Arun Shourie, former BJP leader: “We have to have a single aim – that is ousting the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Become Arjun (of Mahabharata), pitch united opposition candidates against the BJP contestants to win the polls. It will not be 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.”
H D Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister: “The main task before us is how we should move forward. I have heard all the senior leaders speak. Our time is very short, we have only two months. The only issue before us is how all of us will come together; what our future is. It is a herculean task for all of us to forget our differences and come together.
“Using all machinery, they (the BJP) are going to create an atmosphere of fear. Instead of building a strong nation, he (Modi) wants to destroy the secular system of the nation. This meeting is a clear indication that the people want a response. But we have to work out how to give good governance without any hindrance. We need to build confidence in the people that a coalition will last five years.”
Satish Misra, BSP MP: “The BJP is lying to the people for votes. Unemployment is rising. Farmers, labourers, minorities, Dalits are being persecuted.”
HD Kumaraswamy, Chief Minister of Karnataka: “The non-BJP leaders should join hands and root out the BJP. BJP is merely a paper tiger. We the regional parties are the only ones which can understand and fulfil the aspirations of the people.
“I firmly believe that regional parties have the strong instinct to connect with people and understand the common man’s interest in their individual states. In Tamil Nadu we saw the late M. Karunanidhiji who won the hearts of the people and met their aspirations. Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, the SP-BSP have been doing a great job. If you go to Andhra Pradesh, (Chief Minister) N. Chandrababu Naidu has taken the state to new heights. Mamata Banerjee has transformed West Bengal in the last seven years. She has empowered women in the state. All regional leaders have strived to protect the interest of their states. Real India is at the grassroots. It is one of the strongest democracies in the world.”
Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi CM: “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.
“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…
“Demonetisation has taken away all the scope of employment and Modi’s friendly insurance companies were making money at the cost of farmers.”
Lalduhawma, Zoram Nationalist Party: “If that Bill (Citizenship Amendment Bill) is enacted…, India will no longer be the place that it used to be… so we want a secular government at the Centre, so that this Bill is withdrawn or exemption must be given to the Northeast.
“I appeal to all regional parties from the Northeast to break away from all kinds of connections with the Bharatiya Janata Party and join this great movement. Let us all unite together in the fight against communalism. We are looking forward to seeing a new secular government at the Centre so that people of the Northeast are protected.”