Leaders of 20 opposition parties got together at a dinner hosted on Tuesday night by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, where possibilities of putting up a united front to defeat the BJP in the next general elections were discussed.
The move is being seen as an attempt to forge opposition unity to defeat the BJP-led NDA.
According to sources, leaders of NCP, RJD, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK and Left parties attended the dinner among others.
The prominent leaders in attendance were NCP’s Sharad Pawar, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP’s Satish Chandra Misra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren and Jiten Ram Manjhi, besides JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav and RLD’s Ajit Singh.
The RJD was represented by two children of party chief Lalu Prasad — former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharti.
The others present included TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, CPI-M’s D Raja and Mohammad Salim, DMK’s Kanimozhi, AIUDF’s Baddrauddin Ajmal and leaders of Kerala Congress, besides Kupender Reddy of the JD-S.
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Randeep Surjewala were among the Congress leaders present.
According to 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, the BJD, and the TRS were not invited. The BJD and the TRS rule Odisha and Telangana respectively.
The dinner was hosted at the 10 Janpath residence where the leaders discussed the possibilities of all opposition parties getting together on one platform to defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, sources said.
Sonia Gandhi had earlier called for opposition unity, saying parties should set aside their minor differences to get together in the larger interest of keeping the BJP out of power.
Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said the dinner was not organised for politics, but for amity and friendship among opposition parties.
At a time when the government was not allowing Parliament to function, he claimed, it was obvious that leaders of various parties, who wanted to raise issues in national interest, would get together to discuss the current political situation.
“This dinner was not hosted for politics, but for amity and friendship. The intention is not political, but to hold discussions in family-like setting at a time when the nation is confronted with a number of issues and thousands of crores being taken out of the country,” Surjewala told reporters after the dinner.
He said opposition leaders got together to discuss issues in national interest, create bonhomie in the opposition and exchange views.
He also accused the government of running away from a debate on key issues such as banking frauds.