KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee was sworn in on Friday as West Bengal’s chief minister for a second term, in the biggest oath ceremony Bengal has seen. Cheering from front row seats were political heavyweights like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Also present were Bihar’s Lalu Yadav and Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the BJP’s minister from Bengal Babul Supriyo represented the Centre.
But the entire opposition in the state – the Left, Congress and the BJP – boycotted the ceremony and criticised what they called a “waste of public money.”
“It is like the coronation of the Queen of Bengal. This cannot be the coronation of the Chief Minister. The kind of money that is being spent…I think the Queen of England would be put to shame,” said the BJP’s Chandra Bose sarcastically.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav attended Mamata Banerjee’s swearing-in. Also present was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Massive cut-outs, Jayalalithaa-style, of Mamata Banerjee line Kolkata’s Red Road. An entire stretch of arterial road – which links important places in Kolkata like the state secretariat and the High Court – has been cordoned off for the Trinamool Congress’ celebration of a massive victory in the state elections last week.
At the venue, over 20,000 people were allowed in without passes or invitations to witness the oath ceremony; after Mamata Banerjee, 41 ministers took oath in batches of four.
This morning, Ms Banerjee tweeted about a “new beginning” for the people of Bengal and thanked all ministers and chief ministers for attending the ceremony.
Over 20,000 people attended Mamata Banerjee’s swearing-in, the biggest oath ceremony Bengal has ever seen
The presence of leaders like Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and Akhilesh Yadav is being seen as a new beginning of a third front of regional powerhouses to challenge the BJP and the Congress in the 2019 national election.
After her win last week, Mamata Banerjee hinted at future political realignments at the national level when she talked about “friends I can work with,” listing among them the leaders attending her oath ceremony, others like J Jayalalithaa and Mayawati, and also BJP allies like Chandrababu Naidu.
“No third front, second front. If at all this is a first front,” said Derek O’Brien of Ms Banerjee’s party.