The race to shape a formidable united Opposition and lead it is narrowing, with the 2024 elections nearing. While the Congress is organising regular meetings with other parties and Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee hosting different party chiefs in the state.
Amid this tussle to lead an anti-BJP front in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has planned to organise an all-party meeting of Opposition leaders in April. The move comes after several organisations urged the party to take the lead in bringing together Opposition parties, reported news agency PTI.
The meeting is aimed at building on the camaraderie displayed by the opposition parties during the budget session of Parliament and expanding it outside. Congress insiders said the idea was proposed at a meeting of Opposition leaders chaired by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday evening ahead of the dinner at his home.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader T R Baalu, JDU’s Lallan Singh, and a CPI-M leader were among those who urged Kharge to convene a meeting of the parties’ national presidents and top leaders to chart out a blueprint for the 2024 general elections.
The opposition parties are now united on the issue of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha after his conviction and two-year sentence in a defamation case by a Surat court. As many as 18 Opposition parties attended the meeting called by Kharge on Monday. The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) skipped the meeting over Rahul Gandhi’s anti-Savarkar comments.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, however, later said that Shiv Sena (UBT) is also keen on the anti-BJP front. An agreement with the Congress is understood to have been arrived at after Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut spoke to Rahul Gandhi and sorted out the issue over the Savarkar comments.
The development comes at a time when Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is also seemingly trying to form an anti-BJP front with non-Congress parties. Within a week, Banerjee has met her counterpart from Odisha Naveen Patnaik, former Karnataka CM HD Kumarawamy, and former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav. The leaders, however, haven’t announced any alliance yet.
Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal had rejected the idea of being in a united Opposition. However, recent developments, such as Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP last week, could lead to a rethink of certain political decisions. In fact, Arvind Kejriwal was among the first non-Congress Opposition parties to slam the BJP over Gandhi’s disqualification.
Gandhi’s disqualification due to conviction in a defamation case seems to have changed the political chemistry in several quarters as more and, in a rare display of unity, more Opposition leaders are joining hands to put up a united Opposition. Even the Trinamool Congress and the BRS voiced their dissent over the issue.
During the meeting at Kharge’s residence on Monday, Rahul Gandhi emphasised the need for Opposition unity and said that the Congress is willing to make any sacrifice required to ensure that. During the ongoing Budget session of Parliament, the Opposition parties have, so far, worked together and met every day to ensure better coordination in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
(With PTI inputs.)