New Delhi: In a fresh attempt to set up a Third Front, Maharashtra strongman and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has called a meeting of several Opposition parties on Tuesday under the aegis of the Rashtra Manch, which was started by him and Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP Union minister who is now in the Trinamul Congress. According to sources, Mr Pawar, to start with, aims to bring together all the non-Congress Opposition parties.
The meeting is expected to be attended by, among others, the NCP’s Majeed Memon and Samajwadi Party’s Ghanshyam Tiwari, who is also the convenor of the Rashtra Manch, as well as AAP, RLD and RJD representatives. It is likely to see discussions on possible strategies for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Besides this, the leaders may also explore plans to jointly take on the BJP in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections.
Invitations have gone to several parties on behalf of Mr Pawar and Mr Sinha, who joined Mamata Banerjee’s TMC just before the West Bengal elections. “Sharad Pawar ji and Shri Yashwant Sinha ji are co-chairing a discussion on the present national scenario. Yashwant Sinha has requested your kind presence and participation in the meeting,” says the invitation sent out by the Rashtra Manch.
Interestingly some Congress leaders who were also part of the Rashtra Manch have politely declined the invitations that were sent out. These include leaders like Shatrughan Sinha and MPs Vivek Tankha and Manish Tewari. The Rashtra Manch is a coalition of Opposition parties formed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha in 2018 to take on the BJP-led Central government.
After the BJP’s decisive defeat in the recent West Bengal Assembly polls, several Opposition leaders started an “exploratory exercise” for a joint strategy to take on the BJP juggernaut. Insiders claim that political strategist Prashant Kishor is a key player behind this proposed meeting. Mr Kishor had called on Mr Pawar on June 11 at the latter’s Mumbai residence; the meeting also saw the presence of several NCP leaders. On Monday, the two again met at Mr Pawar’s New Delhi residence for nearly two hours, and it was after this that the invitations were sent out for the Rashtra Manch meeting. Mr Kishor had managed the campaign for the West Bengal Assembly elections for the Trinamul Congress, and also for the victorious DMK in Tamil Nadu. He now sees himself in a bigger role rather than just being a political strategist.
Insiders say that the meeting will also discuss the situation prevailing in Uttar Pradesh. Two parties -- Samajwadi Party and the late Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal -- are also a part of the meeting. Several leaders feel that if Uttar Pradesh can be wrested away from the BJP in next year’s Assembly elections, the Rashtra Manch will be in a strong position to plan for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with an important state under its belt. The ruling BJP has been pushed into a corner after the weak Covid-19 response by the Yogi Adityanath government earlier this year.
Mr Pawar has been managing a very tricky alliance in his home state, Maharashtra, between his NCP and the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Earlier, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had spoken about the need for an alliance of Opposition parties at the national level. Mr Raut had said he had spoken to Mr Pawar about this. This time one of Indian politics’ most experienced leaders is trying his hand to stitch another alliance....