20 opposition parties attend Sonia Gandhi dinner

20 opposition parties attend Sonia Gandhi dinner

Leaders of 19 parties made it to the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi that was seen to be aimed at consolidating opposition unity in parliament and beyond, particularly the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sources in the SP and BSP, however, maintained that the dinner meet can not be seen as an attempt to forge an alliance and that "regional parties" will continue to have an "inevitable greater control in state politics".

The prominent leaders in attendance were Nationalist Congress Party's Sharad Pawar, former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Babulal Marandi, besides RLD's Ajit Singh.

"Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", he wrote, and tagged a group photo of the attendees.

Congress communications in charge Randeep Surjewala said the dinner was not organised for politics, but for amity and friendship among opposition parties.

The others present included TMCs Sudip Bandyopadhyay, CPI-Ms D Raja and Mohammad Salim, DMKs Kanimozhi, AIUDFs Baddrauddin Ajmal and leaders of Kerala Congress, besides Kupender Reddy of the JD-S.

Besides Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and party leaders Ahmed Patel, and A.K. Antony were among those present.

TRS chief and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also spoke enthusiastically about a federal front.

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According to top NCP sources, Sharad Pawar has called a meet of all opposition leaders, including the Congress, to discuss a strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. "This was meant to strengthen dialogue between the friendly parties".

Considerable significance is being attached to the dinner in the midst of speculation about the political realignment that could take place ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections.

He accused the government of running away from debates on the Rs. 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case and failing to tackle unemployment and difficulties faced by farmers.

He said opposition leaders got together to discuss issues in national interest, create bonhomie in the opposition and exchange views.

Seventeen opposition parties came 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 bond.

Lalu's son and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav is also likely to attend the dinner but there was no confirmation.

Mamata Banerjee had recently spoken to several key regional party leaders to renew the focus on efforts at forming a non-BJP platform.

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