20 Oppn par­ties at­tend So­nia’s din­ner, ta­ble set for 2019

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - Au­rangzeb Naqsh­bandi au­rangzeb.naqsh­bandi@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Lead­ers of 20 op­po­si­tion par­ties on Tues­day laid the ground­work for a broader strat­egy to tackle the rul­ing BJP in Par­lia­ment and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tions at a din­ner hosted at her res­i­dence by United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance (UPA) chair­per­son So­nia Gandhi.

Billed as a show of strength by the Op­po­si­tion, the din­ner was at­tended by Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and his party col­league Tariq An­war, Tri­namool Congress leader Sudip Bandy­opad­hyay, Te­jashwi Yadav and his sis­ter Misa Bharti from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Omar Ab­dul­lah of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence, Kan­i­mozhi of the DMK, Rashtriya Lok Dal pres­i­dent Ajit Singh and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Sa­ma­jwadi Party.

The Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party, which has skipped Op­po­si­tion meetings in the past, was rep­re­sented by se­nior leader Satish Chan­dra Misra. The new en­trants to the Op­po­si­tion group­ing were Hin­dus­tan Awami Mor­cha chief Jiten Ram Man­jhi and Jhark­hand Vikas Mor­cha (Pra­jatantrik) head Bab­u­lal Marandi.

Sharad Yadav of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, Mo­ham­mad Salim of the Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia (Marx­ist), D Raja of the Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia, Jhark­hand Mukti Mor­cha’s He­mant Soren, All In­dia United Demo­cratic Front’s Badrud­din Aj­mal, Ker­ala Congress (Mani) leader Jose K Mani, D Ku­pen­dra Reddy from the Janata Dal (Sec­u­lar), NK Premachan­dran of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary So­cial­ist Party and In­dian Union Mus­lim League’s PK Kun­halikutty were also in at­ten­dance.

Apart from So­nia, the Congress was rep­re­sented by party pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, for­mer prime min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh, leader of Op­po­si­tion in the Ra­jya Sabha Ghu­lam Nabi Azad, and other se­nior lead­ers in­clud­ing AK Antony, Ahmed Pa­tel, Mal­likar­jun Kharge and Ran­deep Singh Sur­je­w­ala.

The Tel­ugu De­sam Party, which has with­drawn its two min­is­ters from the Modi govern­ment but con­tin­ues to be a part of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (NDA), was not in­vited. The Biju Janata Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party led by Delgi chief min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal , the All In­dia Ma­jlis-eIt­te­hadul Mus­limeen chief Asadud­din Owaisi who was once a part of the UPA, the AIADMK, the Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi, the YSR Congress Party and the Shiv Sena were also not in­vited to the din­ner. “Fab­u­lous din­ner tonight hosted by UPA Chair­per­son, So­nia Gandhi Ji. An op­por­tu­nity for lead­ers from dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties to meet and bond, in­for­mally. Much po­lit­i­cal talk but much more im­por­tant - tremen­dous pos­i­tive en­ergy, warmth and gen­uine af­fec­tion,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted later.

Congress chief spokesper­son Sur­je­w­ala, how­ever, said the din­ner was not or­gan­ised for pol­i­tics but for amity and friend­ship among Op­po­si­tion par­ties. “The in­ten­tion is not po­lit­i­cal, but to hold dis­cus­sions in a fam­ily-like set­ting at a time when the na­tion is con­fronted with a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing the farm­ers’ un­rest,” he said af­ter the din­ner.

Sur­je­w­ala said at a time when the Cen­tre was not al­low­ing Par­lia­ment to func­tion, it was ob­vi­ous that lead­ers of var­i­ous par­ties would get to­gether to dis­cuss the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. So­nia has con­sis­tently been push­ing for broader Op­po­si­tion unity, urg­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties to set aside their lo­cal dif­fer­ences and get to­gether in the larger na­tional in­ter­est to keep the BJP out of power in 2019.

CPI(M)’s Mo­ham­mad Salim said more com­pre­hen­sive meetings will soon fol­low. Pawar has called an­other meet­ing of op­po­si­tion par­ties later this month.

Ear­lier in the day, the BJP hit out at the Congress. “It seems So­nia and Rahul Gandhi don’t be­lieve in democ­racy. They speak out­side on democ­racy but don’t prac­tise it in Par­lia­ment. Congress doesn’t have democ­racy in its genes,” par­lia­men­tary af­fairs min­is­ter Ananth Ku­mar said.


Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi and UPA chair­per­son So­nia Gandhi with lead­ers of 20 op­po­si­tion par­ties dur­ing a din­ner at Jan­path in New Delhi on Tues­day.

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