ALSO READThomas asks old colleagues to merge their parties to fight BJP Presidential Polls: Mamata Banerjee to meet Sonia Gandhi Mamata meets Sonia, favours consensus candidate for presidential poll Mamata meets Sonia Gandhi to discuss presidential polls Leaders of 16 Oppn parties meet to evolve strategy to counter
Leaders of 16 opposition parties today decided to evolve a joint strategy to build an "alternative narrative" in the country to counter the BJP. But cracks in the opposition were visible as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a key ally of the Congress during the ten years of UPA rule, skipped the meeting convened and chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Opposition leaders authorised Gandhi to form a sub-group that would coordinate with other parties on public issues to be taken up before the start of Parliament's winter session. The meeting in the capital was also attended by dissident JD(U) MP Ali Anwar Ansari, who is opposed to his party's alliance with the BJP in Bihar. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the leaders of the Left parties also attended the meet. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, down with a viral infection, was not present. Jose K Mani of the Kerala Congress also could not attend the meeting, apparently because of a party function in Kerala. Among those who were present were former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and A K Antony, RLD's Ajit Singh, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, CPI's D Raja, BSP's Satish Misra and SP's Naresh Agrawal. Omar Abdullah of the NC, Sanjeev Kumar of the JMM, JD's Danish Ali, AIUDF's Badrussin Ajmal, RSP's N K Premchandran and IUML's Mohammed Bashir were also present. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting that those present authorised the Congress president to form the sub-group. He said the opposition parties' floor management was well coordinated during the monsoon session of Parliament. The parties would chalk out a joint strategy to raise public issues in the coming three months before the start of the winter session, he said. "This was the fourth meeting of the opposition parties on coordination.
After these meetings, there was good floor coordination, which was lacking earlier. Opposition parties will come out with a coordinated effort during the inter- session period from now to the winter session of Parliament," he said. Azad said it was decided that the sub-group would hold talks with the leaders of the other parties and discuss with them issues to be raised across the country. The opposition parties also thanked former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and ex-governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi for accepting their proposal to contest the presidential and vice presidential election respectively on behalf of the opposition, Azad said. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the opposition had to build an "alternative narrative" to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. "This alternative is required to be built by raising issues concerning the common man and through struggles on the ground level to counter the BJP," he said. Yechury said this would be done through an effective strategy and taking up "pro-people issues" such as the ongoing agrarian crisis. Azad said besides farmers' issues, unemployment and attacks on dalits, minorities and the poor would be taken up. Asked why the NCP and the Kerala Congress did not attend the meeting, he said he had talked to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar in the morning, who said he was unwell. "Had he been in Delhi and not unwell, he would surely have attended today's event," he said. The NCP, however, said it had boycotted the meet to express its displeasure over allegations by some Congress leaders that its two MLAs did not vote for Ahmed Patel in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections held earlier this week. On the absence of the Kerala Congress, Azad said Mani had said he had a party function to attend in Kerala. RJD's Jaiprakash Yadav said there was an "undeclared emergency" in the country. "Democracy is being murdered under the BJP, which is carrying out the RSS's agenda," he said. Yadav said many opposition leaders would attend the August 27 joint rally in Patna convened by RJD leader Lalu Prasad. Azad and Yechury, however, said nothing had been "finalised" when asked which of the parties would participate in the Patna rally. The opposition moves for a joint strategy come in the wake of a series of assembly polls won by the BJP after the 2014 parliamentary elections which brought the party to power at the Centre.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)