Opposition to strategies on Parliament session at Sonia’s Iftar tomorrow

New Delhi:  With the Modi government battling propriety issues over the Lalit Modi row and the furore on Vyapam scam, leaders of “like-minded” parties will meet for  Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Iftar dinner tomorrow where they are likely to deliberate on the strategy for Parliament session beginning July 21.

With the ‘who’s who’ of anti-BJP politics expected to be present, considerable significance is being attached to the get-together ahead of the Monsoon Session, which is likely to be the most turbulent for the Narendra Modi government since it took office in May last year. Among the leaders invited are Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Mayawati (BSP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), E Ahamed (IUML), Kanimozhi (DMK), D Raja (CPI), Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and Sudip Bandhopadhyay (TMC). Though RJD chief Lalu Prasad has been invited, he has expressed inability to attend due to prior commitments. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav are among the invitees.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which was part of the Congress-led UPA until two years back, and AIUDF, which has a tie-up with the Congress in Assam, are also invited. The regional parties which are not part of the BJP-led NDA, but have still been kept away, include the AIADMK, BJD and TRS, which rule Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Telangana respectively. Congress’ ties with these parties within and outside Parliament are at best lukewarm. In Bihar, the JD(U), RJD, Congress and NCP have resolved to fight unitedly under the leadership of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while the Left will go to the hustings as a separate bloc.

Congress is utilising the opportunity to send a message of larger opposition unity at a time when BJP and the Modi government are on the backfoot following a series of controversies after revelations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje extending help to “fugitive” former IPL boss Lalit Modi. It is also facing heat for the Vyapam scam in which the Supreme Court has ordered a CBI probe. The get-together comes at a time when government managers have decided to brazen it out both outside and within Parliament, reflected in the decision of not shortening the Monsoon session.

With the Modi government and BJP rejecting demands for resignation of Swaraj, Raje and MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, fireworks are expected during the session which will conclude on August 13. Congress has also been demanding the resignation HRD Minister Smriti Irani for misrepresenting facts about her educational qualifications, and Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde for alleged involvement in a “scam” by clearing purchases worth Rs 206 crore on a single day without inviting tenders in violation of norms. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh too is in the line of Congress fire over a “rice scam” wherein Rs 36,000 crore was alleged to have been misappropriated.

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