During the meeting which comprised leaders of 16 parties, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was authorised to form a small group to coordinate with like-minded parties on programmes to be organised in the next three months. The decision by the NCP to stay away from the meeting came as a jolt to the opposition which had something to smile about following the Rajya Sabha win by Ahmed Patel.
The opposition parties had come together to put up an “ideological fight” against the Modi government in the presidential and vice-presidential election, but the fledgling issue-based unity suffered a setback after JD-U President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made a decision to dump RJD and Congress and join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
According to news agency ANI, senior NCP leader Praful Patel confirmed that the party had boycotted the opposition meeting called by Congress. “We also thanked MPs and MLAs who voted for them”, Azad told reporters.
Sources said there was a suggestion, which was keenly supported by some parties, that there should be joint public meetings in major cities. However, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar Ansari, who has sided with senior leader Sharad Yadav and vocal critic of Mr Kumar’s tie-up with the NDA, attended the deliberations. The JD (U) leadership soon cracked the whip against him, suspending him from the Parliamentary Party.
Asked whether the Sharad Pawar-led party will be part of the Opposition unity, the former Civil Aviation Minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet said the issue will be decided “when the time comes”.
Slighted by Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to name him the party’s presumptive chief minister, Mr Vaghela chipped almost a dozen Gujarat lawmakers off the Congress block; some of them have already joined the BJP.
CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said his party is of the view that the Narendra Modi regime can be opposed by creating an alternative narrative through the struggles of people. The Congress, however, said NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had communicated his inability to attend due to ill health. However, Yechury said the Left has a problem with such a programme as “just meetings alone would electoral alliance”.
“Such meetings are not effective”. He said if there is a people’s struggle, the Left would support but reminded them some of the parties had chickened out on protest against demonetisation. He also recounted how some parties had chickened out of the plan to collectively protest against demonetisations a year ago.