In what was seen as an effort to showcase Opposition strength, leaders of as many as 20 parties on Tuesday attended a dinner hosted by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The purpose of the event described by the Congress was to promote “amity and friendship”. The dinner saw the presence of NCP, RJD, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK and Left leaders. However, a number of Opposition heavyweights were absent. Reports had earlier claimed SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, BSP’s Mayawati and TMC’s Mamata Banerjee were supposed to attend the event, but they give it a miss.
NCP’s Sharad Pawar, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav and RLD’s Ajit Singh and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren and Jitan Ram Manjhi, were among the prominent attendees. The others who attended the meet included TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, CPI-M’s D Raja and Mohammad Salim, DMK’s Kanimozhi, AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal and leaders of Kerala Congress, besides Kupender Reddy of the JD-S.
For Congress, Sonia Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh served as hosts of the event. The other prominent Congress leaders at the dinner included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Randeep Surjewala. “Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji. An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji. An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally.
Much political talk but much more important – tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection. pic.twitter.com/IxaAm7UPoI
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) March 13, 2018
“Much political talk but much more important – tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection,” Gandhi added.
As per PTI, Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers from NDA government, BJD, and the TRS were not invited. BJD and TRS rule Odisha and Telangana respectively, the latter was a partner of Congress in Manmohan Singh government.
Leaders form Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav and Sharad Yadav, described the gathering as the first step towards a comprehensive alliance of the 2019 elections. On the possibility of Rahul Gandhi leading the probable opposition alliance, Tejashwi said, “The time has not yet come to decide on the prime ministerial candidate.” Tejashwi said that while the NDA was “breaking apart”, opposition parties were getting together.
The dinner was hosted at Sonia Gandhi’s 10, Janpath residence. It has been learnt that the leaders discussed the possibility of a joint alliance in a bid to defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Earlier, Sonia had called for Opposition unity, saying parties should set aside their minor differences to come together in the larger interest.