Lunch by Sonia gets arch rivals together

The meet was hosted by the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and attended by several regional parties including the arch rivals in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati.

The Congress-led Opposition parties decided on Friday to form a panel to pick their Presidential candidate but insisted that they will first wait for the government to propose the name of a "suitable and consensus" candidate.

The Congress is exploring the possibility of fielding a joint candidate for the presidential election which is due in July this year.

The Bihar CM, however, told reporters that it's "all nothing but misinterpretation".

Asked about another term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee, she said no names were discussed in the meeting.

While the Nationalist Congress Party's Sharad Pawar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham's Kanimozhi, and the National Conference's Omar Abdullah showed up, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar pleaded a previous engagement, leaving Janata Dal (U) colleagues Sharad Yadav and K.C. Tyagi to fill in for him.

Earlier, a Times Now report claimed that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sent out a huge message to the Opposition by skipping lunch cum meeting of Sonia Gandhi and deciding to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at later's residence tomorrow. If it suits all of us then everybody (opposition) will support the candidate. Senior JDU leader Sharad Yadav represented the party in the meeting.

The Opposition statement attacked the ruling dispensation expressing their resolve to strengthen floor coordination in Parliament and "to unitedly oppose this government's policies, that are imposing unprecedented burden on all sections of our people, farmers, working people, youth, SC/STs, minorities, women and other weaker sections of the society". Leaders of 17 political parties joined the high table with Gandhi.

"The invitation was given to JD (U) and Sharad Yadav attended it as party representative", he said emerging from a meeting of the state Cabinet.

The unity of opposition forces, which the leaders said would continue for the next Lok Sabha elections, came on a day when the Modi government marked its third year in office. Nitish has perhaps been the only significant leader from the opposition who did not take a stand against the government's drastic demonetisation drive. His absence from the lunch even raised questions on the unity of the Opposition parties that they unequivocally flaunt before the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.

Lalu said the NDA had "failed" on all fronts. "The Opposition parties also expressed concern over the prevailing grave situation in Jammu and Kashmir", the statement also said.

  • Joanne Flowers