New Delhi: Opposition parties must rise above their political compulsions and set aside personal interests to united against the BJP, various leaders said at a meeting called by Sonia Gandhi on Friday. The Congress president urged the opposition to “plan systematically” for the 2024 national election and work together, stressing that there was no other option. “We all have our compulsions, but clearly, a time has come when the interests of our nation demand that we rise above them,” she said at the 19-party meet.
The 2024 polls is “the ultimate goal”, said Sonia Gandhi, adding: “This is a challenge, but together we can and must rise to it because there is simply no alternative to working cohesively together.”
She called upon opposition parties to begin to plan “with the single-minded objective of giving to our country a government that believes in the values of the Freedom Movement and in the principles and provisions of our Constitution.”
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and Left leader Sitaram Yechury were among those who joined the virtual meet. The parties later put out a joint statement with demands ranging from restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir to a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into the Pegasus snooping allegations and changes to the vaccination strategy.
Mamata Banerjee emphasized that every opposition party should be included in such meetings, “even those not allied with Congress”.
“Forget who is the leader, let’s keep our personal interests aside,” she said amid intense speculation about who will lead the opposition in a fight against the BJP.
Her comments were linked to notable absentees in the interaction. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav RSVP-ed (and sent a statement) while Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati was not invited, which straightaway blunts any unity talk when it comes to the country’s most politically vital state, Uttar Pradesh. Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, and the Akali Dal were also omitted from the guest list.
MK Stalin said, “The recent parliament session has witnessed our unity. It must grow stronger. Federalism is being destroyed due to the scant respect BJP has for states’ rights. It is imperative the opposition stands united at this hour.”
Perhaps acknowledging the skepticism about the Congress’s ability to headline any opposition battle-plan, Sonia Gandhi said her party “will not be found wanting.”
Friday’s meeting takes off from recent opposition huddles and the unprecedented display of unity in the monsoon session, which saw opposition parties united taking on the government over issues like the Pegasus snooping scandal, rising fuel prices and the farmers’ agitation over three central laws. Sonia Gandhi praised the “determined unity” but reminded that “the larger political battle has to be fought outside it.”
Sharad Pawar, a skilled negotiator of coalitions and disparate fronts, said: “Those who believe in democracy and secularism and those who want to save the democratic principles of our country, they should come together. That’s my call.”