Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, in Bengal to campaign on behalf of Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress, came out guns blazing at her first press conference, reminding voters that Ms Banerjee was “fighting to preserve the democratic right of every Bengali” and warning rival political parties – she did not name any – against “hijacking my religion… democratic rights”.
“I have the utmost love and respect for Mamataji – a single woman fighting against all atrocities… a single woman fighting against everyone else. She has a broken leg, but nothing is going to stop her,” Ms Bachchan, a Bengali by birth, and a four-term Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, said.
“Mamataji is fighting to preserve the democratic right of every Bengali,” she said.
Ms Bachchan also issued a veiled warning to the BJP over its campaign strategy – widely seen as a vicious and deeply polarising attack that referred to Ms Banerjee as “anti-Hindu” and someone who appeases Pakistanis and Muslims, and changed her traditional honorific of ‘didi‘ to ‘begum‘
“I want to say… do not hijack my religion from me and do not hijack my democratic rights from me. And when I say me… I mean the people. I represent all the people,” Ms Bachchan said.
Listed as a ‘star campaigner’, Ms Bachchan’s presence comes after a promise from party boss Akhilesh Yadav to Mamata Banerjee – that his party would campaign for her in this election.
Her presence also underlines Banerjee’a plan to take on a ruthless BJP poll machine – to stitch together a pan-India working alliance of non-BJP parties, for this and other elections.
Jaya Bachchan will begin with a campaign for three-time Tollygunge MLA Aroop Biswas, who faces Union Minister Babul Supriyo in defence of his seat.
“I welcome her to Bengal. Though I do not have family relations with her, she knows me very well. She will speak against BJP but will never say anything against me,” he told news agency ANI.
Ms Bachchan is expected to camp in Bengal till April 8, with a joint rally with Mamata Banerjee on the cards. That has not been confirmed yet, though.
On Wednesday the Chief Minister underlined the need to pull together in a letter to 10 opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, whose Congress is firmly in the rival camp in Bengal.