Emboldened by the impressive show of strength at Thursday's 'save our composite culture' conference here, Opposition leaders on Thursday appealed to rebel Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav to lead the campaign across India.
Several top Opposition leaders of 15 parties attended the five-hour long conference. The Opposition plan is to keep it a non-political effort under Yadav's leadership. Yadav, who emerged as a rallying figure, is also slated to visit Patna on Saturday, the day that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is to chair JD (U)'s national
executive. The meeting is to pass a resolution to officially join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National
Yadav, however, will hold a parallel "non-political" conference in Patna on Saturday, said one of his associates. Yadav and some others have protested Bihar CM's decision to ally with the BJP.
There would not be any Rashtriya Janata Dal flag or face on the dais at Yadav's Patna event, the associate said. Yadav would then visit the flood affected districts of Bihar.
At the well-attended conference here today, Congress's Ahmed Patel, who was accorded a warm welcome for his recent Rajya Sabha win against heavy odds, suggested that Yadav should shape an action plan, constitute a small committee, to spread the message of the need to save India's composite culture to all parts of the country. Patel and others called for Opposition unity to defeat Narendra Modi-led BJP
There were also echoes at the conference of the Rajya Sabha election that Patel won from Gujarat.
Yadav said a tribal legislator of the JD (U), Chhotubhai Vasava, resisted threats and spurned offers of large amounts of money, to vote for Patel. Yadav spoke about the discrimination of tribals and Dalits under the current regime.
Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar and rebel JD (U) leader Anwar Ali, however, said that the Opposition should stop talking about Sangh Parivar efforts at imposing Hindutva, and instead focus on the Modi government's failures and of issues that affect the common people.
"Modi ji says he wants to create a 'Swachch Bharat' but we want a 'Sach Bharat'," Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi
said at the conference. "If we all fight unitedly, I can tell you they (BJP
and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) will not be seen anywhere," Gandhi said.
Gandhi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury
and others also highlighted how the Modi government has failed to fulfil its promises on creating 20 million jobs a year.
"We are with Sharad Yadav. If we have to save this composite culture, Sharad ji will hold the key to the movement to save it. He will have to complete the task," Yechury said. The leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said Yadav was the "real JD-U" and noted that he had declined a cabinet berth and chosen the path of secularism.
Others who attended the conference were former prime minister Manmohan Singh, National
Conference's Farooq Abdullah, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Babulal Marandi, Rashtriya Lok Dal's Jayant Chaudhary, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, Trinamool Congress's Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, Communist Party of India's D Raja, Nationalist Congress Party's Tariq Anwar, Vir Singh from Bahujan Samaj Party, Janata Dal (Secular)'s Danish Ali and RJD's Manoj Jha.