Sun. May 26th, 2024


The next meeting will be held in Shimla, and will be convened and headed by the Congress. (file)

New Delhi:

It took an intervention by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others to calm tempers when Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, which went into the meeting with a pre-condition for a grand alliance, had a heated exchange over the Centre’s controversial Ordinance aimed at clipping the Delhi government’s hold over its own bureaucracy. The intervening leaders questioned Mr Kejriwal on his insistence for Congress’s stand on the Ordinance in yesterday’s meeting. The grand old party has repeatedly stressed the big meeting wasn’t the appropriate forum for that issue.

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said his party was committed to not expanding to other states in the interest of larger opposition unity. Congress should announce their decision on Delhi Ordinance in the meeting itself, they, however, demanded.

Mallikarjun Kharge said Congress is open to aligning with like-minded parties, but also questioned AAP spokesperson’s controversial statement just minutes before the meeting. “During Parliament session, Opposition parties regularly meet and chalk out a joint strategy. AAP has attended those meetings. Why should there be a different mechanism for this Ordinance? This cannot be a pre-condition for the alliance to fight BJP,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said his party had an open mind about the alliance and was ready to forget the past. “We are here with an open mind…. without any past likes and dislikes. All of us will be flexible. We will need to be together in this fight, whatever it takes,” he said.

Though they later said seat-sharing discussions would be left to the next meeting in Shimla, the 32 leaders from 16 Opposition parties did touch upon the prickly issue in the four-hour-long Opposition meeting in Bihar’s Patna on Friday.

Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, clarifying it wasn’t “anti-Congress”, said his party is from a big state, so “will have bigger heart”. 

“We are open for seat sharing or common candidate arrangement. We are not anti-Congress. The fight is against BJP,” he said. Mr Yadav’s party has maintained a calculated distance from Congress since their alliance for the 2017 UP state elections, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory. The Samajwadi Party was believed to be bitter at its ally’s poor showing, despite extracting a considerable number of seats for itself in the alliance. Many believed Congress got more than it deserved. Akhilesh Yadav had even three months back categorically ruled out any kind of understanding with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the next Lok Sabha polls.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee argued that there should be only one joint Opposition candidate against the BJP. “This is a fight between people of India vs Modi,” she said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief MK Stalin said there must be different formula for different states. He suggested state-wise alliances under the leadership of a party that’s strong in the state. If there’s no alliance, either seat sharing arrangement or common candidate from the Opposition should be put up against the BJP, he said.

Congress, as the largest party, was asked to speak first, but party president Mallikarjun Kharge said that they will speak last after listening to all other leaders.

Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar spoke first, and termed the meeting the “first step” in a larger opposition unity. “More parties will join this coalition closer to 2024,” he said.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said the biggest party in the state should lead, and other parties should extend support. “Bigger parties should show large heartedness. Congress should be open and flexible for seat sharing arrangements,” he said.

Nationalist Congress Party patriarch Sharad Pawar said the Opposition should work together to “protect democracy”, and not just for elections.

Uddhav Thackeray called it a fight of dictatorship versus democracy.

PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, citing the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory, said what happened to Kashmir is not just limited to Kashmir, and the BJP will do it in other states too.

Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM Chief Hemant Soren said there should be joint campaigns across the country.

The next meeting will be held in Himachal Pradesh’s Shimla, and will be convened and headed by the Congress, it was decided. Mechanism for seat sharing arrangement between these parties will be discussed in the Shimla meeting, and more like-minded parties will be invited.


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