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Opposition Meeting to Discuss Seat-Sharing, Agenda, Alliance Name

Some parties believe that a name for the 24-party alliance is too early while others believe it would give a sense of purpose.
A poster of opposition leaders put up outside the venue of the united opposition meeting, in Bengaluru, Monday, July 17, 2023.

A poster of opposition leaders put up outside the venue of the united opposition meeting, in Bengaluru, Monday, July 17, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak

The two-day Opposition conclave of 24 parties convened by the Congress in Bengaluru starting Monday got a boost with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) joining the anti-BJP front, but they are not on the same page as yet over seat-sharing, greater coordination and communication, a formal name for the grouping and a common programme.

Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal, MK Stalin, Nitish Kumar and Hemant Soren would attend the meet while K Chandrasekhar Rao, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Chandrababu Naidu and Naveen Patnaik would stay away.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar will skip the Opposition dinner hosted by Karnataka chief minister (CM) Siddaramaiah at Taj West End on Monday but will attend day two of the meeting, his daughter and party MP Supriya Sule confirmed to The Indian Express.

The violence-plagued West Bengal panchayat election hasn’t affected the Opposition unity with CM Banerjee and TMC No.2 Abhishek Banerjee deciding to join the meet. TMC sources told The Indian Express that the two leaders might skip the dinner but would attend the meeting the next day.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut confirmed that party chief Uddhav Thackeray too would attend the meeting.

Regarding Pawar skipping day one of the meeting, he said, “I am confident that Sharad Pawar will attend the meeting tomorrow morning. We are all united.”

After 17 parties attended the June 23 Opposition meeting in Patna, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had said that the group would unitedly contest against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and a common agenda would be finalised in the next meeting in Shimla. Due to Himachal’s adverse weather, the Opposition decided to hold the meeting in Bengaluru.

With leaders of 24 parties expected to join the meeting to strategise for the upcoming Monsoon Session and next year’s general election, the venue in Bengaluru is abuzz with activity. Posters of Opposition leaders, including AAP’s national convener and Delhi CM Kejriwal, were displayed at the venue.

The most positive development for the Opposition was AAP joining the meeting hours after the Congress publicly supported its campaign against the Centre’s contentious ordinance on controlling Delhi’s bureaucracy.

“The Ordinance route that they (the Centre) have taken to take away the powers of the state government is not in good taste. Today it is happening in Delhi, tomorrow it might happen in Karnataka. So, we are against this dictatorial attitude of the Central government,” Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge told ANI.

Welcoming the Opposition parties, Siddaramaiah said, “I heartily welcome the leaders of the prominent Opposition parties in the country who have come together to fight against authoritarianism, communalism, and corruption. May the seeds sown in this peaceful garden of harmony bear the fruit to restore secular, socialist, and democratic values as enshrined in our Constitution,” he tweeted.

During a press conference in Bengaluru, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said that democracy, Constitutional rights and the independence of our institutions “are under attack by the BJP regime”.

“They [the Centre] wanted to silence the Opposition’s voice. They are misusing agencies to suppress the voice of the Opposition. The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Parliament is one of the biggest examples of that. The incident happening in Maharashtra is also an example,” he added.

Siddaramaiah’s deputy DK Shivakumar, present with Venugopal, said, “This is not the meeting of an individual political party; it is shaping this country for the future of 140 crore people who are suffering on various issues. We will take it forward and the results will come out—as Karnataka gave us a mandate, the entire country will give us a mandate in 2024.”

Meanwhile, Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP are “baffled” by the Patna Opposition meeting.

“After the Patna Opposition meeting, the PM was suddenly reminded of NDA. Attempts are being made to breathe new life into NDA. Suddenly, it was reported that an NDA meeting has been called tomorrow. This is a result of the meeting in Patna,” he said at the press conference.

The conclave aims to iron out the differences between the parties and project a united front against the BJP. For example, there is a proposal to set up a subcommittee for drafting a common minimum programme and communication points and a name for the alliance, sources told NDTV.

Seat-sharing is the most important agenda. “Of course, we need to talk about seat sharing,” one leader told The Indian Express. Another leader said the parties would decide on organising joint programmes and rallies and “issues on which the parties can coordinate and unite and draw up a programme if not written”.

“We have to strengthen the bonds between the parties, narrow down differences and improve inter-party communication,” a senior Opposition leader said.

“The mission is clear—work unselfishly, unitedly and present the India we cherish with a vision for 2024 and beyond,” said TMC Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien.

While some of the parties believe it is too early to have a formal name for the alliance, others feel that a name will display a sense of purpose.

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