New Delhi: Amid uncertainty over government formation in Maharashtra due to scuffle between allies BJP and Shiv Sena, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi would likely meet NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi on November 4, said sources.
According to sources, the two leaders would talk about the condition of the country's economy, but speculation suggests they will discuss the possibility of supporting the Sena in an attempt to keep BJP away from power.
Buoyed by her party’s performance in the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, Sonia Gandhi has also called a meeting of opposition leaders on Monday to work out a strategy on key economic issues and garner support for the party’s proposed agitation on slowdown, rising unemployment and agrarian crisis.
The single largest Opposition party has called for nationwide protests from November 5 to 15 against the Narendra Modi government's policies with special focus on economic crisis, unemployment and farm distress, before the beginning of the Winter Session of Parliament from November 18 to December 13, reported News18.
The party has also decided to oppose a proposed trade deal among members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a grouping of 16 nations, including India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will finalise the free trade deal at the RCEP Summit during his three-day trip to Bangkok beginning Saturday.
The Congress has claimed that the RCEP agreement would be the third 'jolt' to the country's economy after demonetisation and ‘flawed’ implementation of GST, and demanded that the government explain to the people the cost benefit analysis of the mega free-trade pact.
Ironically, it was the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government which decided to participate in the trade deal negotiations in 2012.
The deal has also been facing 'increasing' resistance from domestic industry, farmer groups, civil society organisations and opposition political parties who say China will dump cheaper goods into India.
The opposition meeting will also be in the spotlight amid the growing uncertainty over government formation in Maharashtra more than a week after election results were announced.
Top Congress leaders from Maharashtra on Friday flew to Delhi and apprised Sonia of the evolving political situation in the state. Sources said the leaders have conveyed to her that the Sena is “feeling humiliated” and its chief Uddhav Thackeray is upset with the BJP over its reluctance to accept the 50:50 power-sharing formula.
A section of senior Congress leaders from Maharashtra are of the view that the party should exploit the situation. Another section of Congress leaders believe the party should not wade into the Shiv Sena-BJP tussle, arguing that the Sena is merely indulging in pressure tactics and the two parties will soon bury the hatchet.
The leader said Sonia heard the state Congress leaders and is likely to discuss the Maharashtra situation with NCP chief Pawar.
The Sena and the BJP contested last week's Assembly election together and emerged with 161 seats in the 288-member house. Unfortunately for the BJP, it won only 105 on its own and needs the 56 Sena MLAs to cross the majority mark of 145. Recognising this, the Sena has refused to budge from its demands - "50:50" allocation of ministries and the rotation of the Chief Minister's post after 2.5 years
The NCP and the Congress won 54 and 44 seats, respectively. A potential tie-up between the Sena, the NCP and the Congress will give them 154 seats and force the BJP into the minority.
Sharad Pawar, who single-handedly ran the opposition campaign, has cooled talk of such a tie-up, describing the tussle between the two long-term allies as "childish" and saying the people of Maharashtra had given his party a mandate to sit in the opposition.
"We do not have a clear majority. People have asked us to sit in the opposition. We accept that mandate and will take care that we play that role effectively," he said on Friday.
Rifts between the Sena and the BJP appeared to widen today after the former called the "President's Rule threat" by BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar an "insult" to the people's mandate.
Earlier this week, the Sena and the BJP held separate meetings with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, calling them courtesy visits for Diwali greetings. On Thursday, Uddhav Thackeray's son Aaditya Thackeray led another delegation. This time, it was on farmers' issues, he said.
The tenure of the existing Legislative Assembly in Maharashtra ends on November 8.