Leaders of 20 opposition parties on Tuesday laid the groundwork for a broader strategy to tackle the ruling BJP in Parliament and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at a dinner hosted at her residence by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Prominent leaders present at the dinner were NCP's Sharad Pawar, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir), Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) and Jitan Ram Manjhi (Bihar), besides JD (U)'s Sharad Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal's (RLD) Ajit Singh.
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.
Although leaders who attended dinner rubbed it off saying it was just an informal bonding of several opposition leaders, the development clearly hints that Congress is attempting to form a strong anti-Modi front to face the coming 2019 polls, and at the same time beats down the third front talks. He had earlier said, "Will not be able to attend the dinner as the Assembly session in Tamil Nadu was beginning from March 15". "Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", said Rahul Gandhi. When like-minded leaders meet, they discuss politics and serious governance issues that are affecting the whole nation. "It was for friendship and better dialogue between parties:", he said.
The BJD and the TRS rule Odisha and Telangana respectively.
Sonia Gandhi hosted the opposition dinner at 10 Janpath.
He said Opposition leaders got together to discuss issues in national interest, create bonhomie in the Opposition and exchange views.
Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal appeared to agree, contrasting the incremental improvement in the opposition ranks with the Telugu Desam Party pulling out its ministers from PM Narendra Modi's team.
Seventeen opposition parties had come together against the BJP-led NDA during the presidential and vice-presidential elections a year ago and Sonia Gandhi has been holding occasional meetings to nurture the bonding.
Those conspicuous by their absence included Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal C M Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
"Since the government is not interested in running Parliament, in the national interest Opposition leaders would discuss ways of holding the government accountable", said Mr. Surjewala.