P Chidambaram
In picture: P Chidambaram.Congress official website

The BJP seems to be going from strength to strength when it comes to elections — barring the hiccups in Delhi and Bihar in 2015 — and as they do so, the sphere of influence of the Congress is shrinking. Along with that is shrinking the belief among many that party vice president Rahul Gandhi can help the party regain its older grandeur, and this was reinforced when Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram said he would rather have someone else as a "fearless leader of the Opposition".

Also read: Assembly elections 2017: Rahul Gandhi is now a liability not just for the Congress, but for its allies as well

Who does Chidambaram want to lead the Opposition?

Chidambaram was attending the launch of his own book, titled Fearless in Opposition — Power and Accountability, when he was asked by Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien who he saw as leader of a united Opposition in the country right now. According to a Bengali daily, his answer would surprise quite a few Congress supporters as well.

Chidambaram said he wanted to seem West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the role. It may be mentioned here that Mamata Banerjee had started her political career as part of the Congress, and had even been a Union minister in a Congress government in the early 1990s, before leaving the party to form the Trinamool Congress and reduce the Congress to near-nothingness in West Bengal.

Why the choice could work or fall flat

Mamata Banerjee has been one of the most vociferous opponents of the BJP and its policies at the Centre as well as the state levels. In fact, when she and Rahul Gandhi held a joint press conference late last year to protest against demonetisation, she clearly overshadowed him with her opposition against the move. Banrjee could well be the rallying point around which an anti-BJP coalition can coalesce.

However, Banerjee has also been known to make frivolous allegations — like the time she alleged that the Centre had sent the army to West Bengal, or that it had tried to have her assassinated when the plane she was travelling in had to circle over the Kolkata airport a few times before landing. These allegations are something no party would like to be part of if ever there is an anti-BJP front.