New Delhi : The Opposition unity to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP appeared intact as 19 parties turned up at the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi, dispelling recent reports of a third front under Telangana CM K Chandra Sekhar Rao taking shape as a non-BJP and non-Congress front.
In fact, it signified a 20-party grouping if the Congress is also counted.
The well-attended dinner significantly diluted speculation about the evolution of a sub-plot as a counter to Congress supremacy in the anti-BJP grouping as senior leaders asserted there was no threat to the Opposition unity at all.
It also put full stop to NCP chief Sharad Pawar planning to call an opposition meeting here on March 27 or 28 for formation of a federal front minus Congress in view of some parties’ reservation.
Pawar himself turned up at Sonia’s dinner while Trinamul Congress was represented by its Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay while attendees included Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) and Satish Chandra Misra (BSP). Both CPI and CPI(M) also shared dinner table with Trinamul, putting aside their rivalry in West Bengal.
There was some confusion after Mamata Banerjee took the initiative of contacting anti-Congress parties like the TRS and Telangana chief minister enthusiastically talked about a federal front. Mamata also talked to DMK chief MK Stalin, followed by a meeting with NCP’s Praful Patel.
Sonia’s message to all leaders was to keep aside differences at the state level and forge a unity to take on Modi in the Lok Sabha elections unitedly and do not give him chance to take advantage of division of the opposition votes that mustered him win almost 150 seats in the 2014 elections.
Besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, six other Congress leaders participating in the dinner meeting were Dr Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Randeep Singh Surjewala. Rahul invited all to the AICC plenary session taking place here from March16 to 18.
Here is the list of the leaders who turned up at the dinner:
SP(AIUDF), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Tejasvi Yadav, Misa Bharti (RJD), Omar Abdullah (NC), Hemant Soren (JMM), Ajit Singh (RLD), D Raja (CPI), Md Salim (CPI-M), Kanimozhi (DMK), Kutti (IUML), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), Kerala Cong, Babu Lal Madandi (JVM), Ramachandran (RSP), Sharad Yadav (Hindustan Tribal Party), Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC), Jiten Ram Majhi (Hindustan Awam Morcha), Dr Kupender Reddy (JD-S)