Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Dinner boost to Opposition unity

Dinner boost to Opposition unity

The well-attended dinner Sonia Gandhi hosted on Tuesday night has diluted speculation about a sub-plot emerging as a counter to Congress supremacy in the anti-BJP grouping, with senior leaders asserting there was no threat to Opposition unity at all. When like-minded leaders meet, they discuss politics and serious governance issues that are affecting the whole nation. "Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", Rahul Gandhi tweeted later.

"While the NDA was "breaking apart", opposition parties were getting together, he said, apparently hinting at TDP pulling out of the Modi government". Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president called the dinner "an opportunity" for leaders to "meet and bond".

The leaders, who finally made it to the high-table were Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Tejashwi Yadav, Misa Bharti (RJD), Omar Abdullah (National Conference), Hemant Soren (JMM), Ajit Singh (RLD), D Raja (CPI), Mohd Salim (CPIM), Kanimozhi (DMK), Kutti (IUML), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), Babulal Marandi (JVM), Ramachandran (RSP), Sharad Yadav (Bharatiya Tribal Party), Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC), Jitan Ram Majhi (Hindustan Awam Morcha), Dr Kupender Reddy (JDS), a member of Kerala Congress. TMC's Derek O'Brien, who had initially planned to come, took the evening off to celebrate his birthday.

The dinner hosted by Mrs Gandhi is expected to set the tone for opposition unity in the run-up to the next general elections.

"At a time when the government is trying to create walls", he said, "we are making way to travel together by forging friendships and bringing harmony".

While all the parties invited for dinner did send their representatives, the line-up was far from daunting for the ruling BJP as political heavyweights from the Opposition were starkly missing.

In the letter, opposition parties have pointed out that there was no discussion on tabling the Finance Bill during the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting and that the government had listed the bill without informing any political party in advance. Clarifying to media that dinner with opposition leaders should not be seen from a political angle, Congress party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "This dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi ji for opposition parties should not be seen from the prism of politics, it was for friendship and better dialogue between parties".

Left and TMC leaders who were present said it was certainly a "political dinner without political talks".

"After Rahul Gandhi's return from Italy, the Congress has changed its strategy".

This dinner is also significant in the context of moves by regional parties like the Telanagana Rashtra Samiti and the Telugu Desam Party which have attacked BJP in the recent past and are said to be jockeying for a third front of parties against the BJP and Congress.

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