Assam activist and MLA Akhil Gogoi has told NDTV that while a merger of his Raijor Dal with Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress is not possible, the two parties are hoping to work together against the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Mr Gogoi’s remarks come days after Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee proposed a joining of forces to take on the BJP in Assam – where it retained power after the April-May election – and Tripura – where elections are due in 2023.
“We have held three rounds of meetings with the Trinamool so far… they proposed my party – Raijor Dal – merge with them, and they wanted me to take charge as President of the Trinamool’s Assam State Committee,” Mr Gogoi, the MLA from Sivasagar, told NDTV.
“We are discussing all aspects internally… we will decide soon. (But) we will not merge with Trinamool. The Raijor Dal is a regional political party,” he said, adding, “We would like to unite all regional forces in the country and unite against the BJP-RSS.”
Mr Gogoi also said the two parties are working on a strategy for bypolls to five Assembly seats.
On Wednesday, Akhil Gogoi – who was released from jail last month after spending more than 18 months on charges under “draconian” anti-terror law UAPA – said: “After I came out of the jail, Mamata Banerjee invited me to meet her. I visited Kolkata twice recently and met her too.”
Mr Gogoi had been arrested during the anti-CAA agitation in December 2019.
Mamata Banerjee’s invitation to merge comes as the Trinamool – boosted by a win over the BJP in Bengal – looks to expand its footprint and clout ahead of the 2024 general election.
The first steps on that path are Assam and Tripura – both ruled by the BJP and both home to large Bengali populations. Akhil Gogoi and his Raijor Dal, the party is hoping, will be a strong introduction to Assam, given common views on controversial subjects like the citizenship law.
Groundwork for the Tripura has already begun, with Ms Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee visiting Agartala last week. Mr Banerjee’s convoy was allegedly attacked by BJP supporters, after which he told reporters his party could not be stopped.
“We will free the people of Tripura… If Biplab babu (Chief Minister Biplab Deb) can stop us, let him try,” Mr Banerjee said after the alleged attack.
In 2018, just ahead of the last Assembly election in Tripura – which the BJP swept – the Trinamool had six MLAs. They were, however, lured by then rebel leader Mukul Roy to the BJP.
Mr Roy has since rejoined the Trinamool and is working to bring them back.