In the very first Opposition meeting, to discuss electoral strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha election against the BJP, 16 parties have confirmed their presence. Though according to sources, both Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former president Rahul Gandhi might skip the meeting hosted by Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on June 12, citing “scheduling” problems.?
The Congress wanted the meeting to be postponed for June 23. But it was felt that it is difficult to arrive at a date that will be suitable for everyone so the meeting should continue as per the finalised schedule.?
The Congress has assured that it will depute one of its leaders to attend the meeting. “If the Congress wants to show that it cares about Opposition unity, it must depute one of the Chief Ministers to attend in the absence of Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi,” a senior Opposition leader quipped.?
While the Congress bigwigs might be absent, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) patriarch Sharad Pawar, among others have confirmed their presence. While this is just a preliminary meeting, the Opposition is aiming to arrive at an agreement for fielding one common candidate against BJP on every Lok Sabha seat.?
In his previous confabulations with Mr. Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in Delhi, Mr. Gandhi had suggested a “chintan shivir” (brainstorming session) to come up with a common stand on key issues to counter the BJP. “Mr. Gandhi wanted all Opposition leaders to sit together for three to four days away from Delhi to have detailed dialogue to sort out ideological and political differences. We will have many rounds of meetings, both one-on-one and in larger groups,” a Congress leader said.
For Mr. Kejriwal, Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi’s absence is partially a missed opportunity. At least three Opposition leaders who recently met Mr. Kejriwal have confirmed that he has complained multiple times, that despite his efforts for the last three months to meet the Congress leadership, neither Mr. Gandhi nor Mr. Kharge has positively responded. The Delhi Chief Minister in the last two weeks has nearly met heads of all Opposition parties to garner support for AAP’s fight against Centre’s ordinance on posting and transfer of bureaucrats that gives the Lt. Governor overarching powers over the elected government.??
(With inputs from Abhinay Deshpande)