n SP, BSP, Left skip President meeting; Azad says unity only for House
Opposition unity took a knocking Friday after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and senior party leaders met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most of the major Opposition parties stayed away from a scheduled joint meeting later with President Pranab Mukherjee. Several parties, including the SP and NCP, slammed the Congress for meeting the Prime Minister unilaterally to raise the issue of agrarian distress.
The meeting with the Prime Minister also left many senior Congress leaders squirming. Many questioned the timing as it came just two days after Rahul Gandhi claimed he had “information” on the “personal corruption” of the Prime Minister, a claim the BJP and the government had dismissed as the “joke of the year”.
Some in the Congress said the meeting amounted to a “self-goal”. While those present at the meeting said it was a “frosty” affair, they said the Prime Minister did tell Rahul and the others that “we should keep meeting”. Rahul said the Prime Minister accepted that the situation of farmers was “serious” but did not say anything on farm loan waiver — the main demand of the Congress.
Annoyed over the Congress meeting with the Prime Minister, the SP, BSP, NCP, DMK, CPM, CPI and JD(S) boycotted a meeting with the President who was told by the Congress, JD(U), Trinamool Congress, RJD and RSP that the Opposition voice had been “stifled” in Parliament and that demonetisation had “brought about a disastrous situation” in the country. They sought the President’s intervention to “save people from economic disaster”.
SP leader Naresh Agrawal told The Indian Express: “We boycotted the meeting at the directive of Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) because he (Rahul) went alone to meet the Prime Minister on the issue of farmers. Congress is not the only party raising the issue. All of us have raised it. But he went and met the Prime Minister alone. As far as the problems of farmers are concerned, the Congress and BJP have ruled the country longest, so they are more responsible for the plight of the farmers.”
NCP’s D P Tripathi echoed the view: “Rahul Gandhi went alone to meet the Prime Minister without consulting and discussing it with any other Opposition party when a united Opposition stand was being worked out on the currency ban issue. If he keeps holding such meetings on his own, without consulting any Opposition leader, we will respond in the same manner in future too.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad justified the meeting with the prime minister.