To conjure up a united front against the BJP-NDA, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will on Tuesday have dinner with leaders from 17 parties even though a question mark hangs over the acceptance of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as the joint opposition leader.
According to reports, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay, DMK’s Kanimozhi, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Tejashwi Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal and D Raja of the Left will be attending the dinner being hosted at the 10, Janpath residence of Sonia Gandhi.
Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha will also attend the dinner, along with former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently quit the NDA and joined forces with Lalu Prasad’s RJD, an ally of Congress.
According to Congress sources, leaders of Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers in the Modi government but continues to be a constituent of the NDA, BJD, and the TRS have not been invited. The BJD and TRS rule Odisha and Telangana respectively.
Sonia Gandhi’s initiative – in the backdrop of opposition parties joining hands to attack the government in Parliament – is a step towards strengthening the opposition and laying the foundation for a united front in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
It comes at a time when talk of a non-BJP, non-Congress front is doing the rounds following a proposal by TRS chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao for a national consultation process on the matter.
While the opposition is keen to conjure up an alliance, reports suggest that some leaders are not willing to work under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, who as the chief of the Congress party will like to lead the coalition.
Meanwhile, the Congress is concerned about TMC chief Mamata Banerjee who may be harbouring ambitions of leading the alliance which in no way would be acceptable to the Congress.