Congress' interim president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting with all the opposition party leaders.
New Delhi: It was a grand summit of 19 towering Indian political stars. The agenda was 'opposition unity' to take on Narendra Modi - the much 'hated' target for the battle of 2024.
“I am confident that this unity (read during Monsoon session of Parliament including table jumps) will be sustained in the future sessions of Parliament as well, but the larger political battle has to be fought outside it,” said Sonia Gandhi, the 'permanently' interim president of Congress party - which has for record missed two Houses LoP status in Lok Sabha.
Her party has other achievements in between - it is 'zero' MLA strong in West Bengal, Tripura, Delhi and Nagaland.
Blaming the government for the Monsoon session washout, Sonia Gandhi made it well known in as many words: "....the session was marked by the determined unity that all Opposition parties demonstrated for over twenty days in both the houses. We functioned in a coordinated manner with daily discussions." So all that happened in both the Houses did not happen just for the sake of it. If Parliament session was an indication, more chaos is on the cards on the streets.
The participants at the meeting on Friday (August 20) also included Marxist Sitaram Yechury. His party's biggest achievement in May 2021 has been to retain power in Kerala and reduce itself to 'zero' member strong in West Bengal - the onetime red forte. As a CPI-M comrade, he does not mind making the 'same purpose' with Trinamool Congress and see Mamata Banerjee steal the limelight and gain political currency if Modi juggernaut could be stopped. Of course, before the meeting, he said, "elections are not everything". And in the meantime, as things seem to be unfolding lately in Tripura, here too, his party may end up scoring a zero in 2023.
For her part, the lady from West Bengal is pursuing her 'sisterly' relationship with Congress and poached in protagonist Sushmita Dev, a former Silchar MP from Assam. The daughter of former MoS Home, Santosh Mohan Dev, is likely to enter Rajya Sabha, and this was the 'real' catalyst in jumping the ship game. Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha's name is also figuring in these, and Sinha had actively participated in another 'opposition unity' meet organised by Sharad Pawar of NCP. The Trinamool supremo is all for big sacrifices as long as it suits her. Thus, in the virtual meeting, she declared, “impartial institutions like the NHRC has been misused" to malign her government and police.
The fact that the Opposition conclave came just a day after Calcutta High Court's orders could not force her to sound 'remorseful' a bit. “Let us forget who is the leader," she declared as journalists and her party colleagues might have clapped. "People are the leader," she said, meaning — in a real sense, I have won Bengal, and so I am the PM material. If someone joked, "What about Nandigram?" She could democratically shout down such queries.
Her Delhi mission was a flop recently, and she was too glad that Sonia also invited Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi for the meet. An affectionate mother is also a powerful mother. The message goes well. Such meets would be 'refreshing' for Sonia's apple of the eye' like Twitter and Facebook social media platforms no longer seem to champion the cause of his version of sickularism. Now, that's also a PM material who violated the law by sharing the identity of a mother of a minor rape victim but is not apologetic about the same. Rather, he thinks Twitter and Facebook are wrong, and so is Narendra Modi.
Next comes the protagonists from Maharashtra. The all-time 'Maratha strongman' and his 'media friends' would be glad to see Pawar-sahib as the new chairperson for the UPA. Sonia does not seem to mind that. She hinted that for opposition unity, the Congress would not be found wanting. Pawar would be glad to take up such a mantle, but would like something more too. Between him and Mamata remains the 'real Congress variety' of personal ambition to be discussed and debated until the saga of 2024 is actually completed.
Sharad Yadav of newly floated Loktantrik Janata Dal has played spoiled sport already. He said: "Congress is the largest opposition party, and it's obvious that either Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi will have to chair the core group. I believe this will be everyone's suggestion." So, Kolkata plans may not fructify at all.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said, “Regional parties that are strong in certain states should be put in the driver’s seat in respective areas." Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, had little choice to ponder about, so he also participated. Chief Ministers MK Stalin (Tamil Nadu) and Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) also made their presence felt.
Two former Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi) and Mayawati (BSP), were absent. AAP and Biju Janata Dal of Naveen Patnaik also stayed away - of course, it must be for different reasons.
So, 'young-boys battle and 'sure win' theories circulated in 2017 prematurely, that is SP-Congress tie-up, may not happen this time.
Sonia Gandhi's speech underlined the mission that the opposition parties will “have to begin planning systematically with the objective of giving to our country a government that believes in the values of the Freedom Movement." But one is not sure whether any of these 19 leaders, including half a dozen PM-materials, referred to the turmoil in Afghanistan. With 'sickularism' in their vein and up the sleeves, how could they?
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