Sonia to Help Stitch Opposition Unity
New Delhi: With the saffron threat looming large over the much-hyped “Grand Alliance” against the BJP in the 2024 general election, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi appears to have jumped into the fray to stitch Opposition unity. A day before the Opposition conclave in Bengaluru on July 18, Mrs Gandhi is all set to host a dinner for the Opposition leaders. The leaders of 24 Opposition parties, eight of which are new, have been invited to the dinner and subsequent meeting.
The first Opposition meeting, featuring some 15 parties, took place in Patna at the instance of chief minister Nitish Kumar. Since then, a split in Maharashtra veteran Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and his nephew Ajit Pawar’s switch to the Eknath Shinde-BJP coalition in the state, is seen to have somewhat dampened the moves for Opposition unity. The NCP split spurred speculation about Opposition alliances fragmenting in other states, like Bihar. The Aam Aadmi Party is among those invited, despite the friction between the AAP and the Congress at the Patna meeting.
This is also the first meeting that will bring Trinamul boss Mamata Banerjee on the same platform as the Left and the Congress after they fought each other in the West Bengal panchayat polls, which Banerjee’s TMC won by a landslide, defeating the BJP and leaving the Left-Congress at a distant third. At the same time, sources claim that eight new parties will join the meeting on Monday.
The 24 Opposition parties have together around 150 Lok Sabha members now and are seeking to expand their base. The Opposition parties are likely to deliberate on a broad plan for their unity efforts, where they intend to put up one common candidate against the BJP across the country, sources said. Karnataka deputy CM D.K. Shivakumar had said on Monday: “A meeting of leaders of all Opposition parties (in the country) will be held on July 17 and 18, as already announced. All the leaders are going to come. (M) Mallikarjun Kharge (AICC president) has requested Sonia Gandhi to participate in this meeting. We have got a message that she will be participating in this meeting.”
While announcing the dates of the Opposition meeting, AICC general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said: “We are steadfast in our unwavering resolve to defeat the fascist and undemocratic forces.”
However, the Congress continues to boycott the ruling BRS in Telangana. The Congress considers the BRS to be in “league with the BJP”. The Congress also accused the BRS of helping the BJP in Telangana and other states after the top leadership of the Congress met with the party leaders.