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June 2021
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Main News
Sharad Pawar, Yashwant Sinha call meet to put up united opposition
 
NEW DELHI: In the first major attempt post the recent round of assembly elections to bring opposition parties together, NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar and BJP veteran- turned-TMC- leader Yashwant Sinha have called a meeting of political leaders from the anti-BJP spectrum for a discussion on the political situation in the country on Tuesday. There will, however, be no representation from Congress.

Interestingly, the three invites to Congress leaders went to G-23 members - Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha and Manish Tiwari. Two of the invitees said they are not attending and one of them is not in the capital. The invitations have not been sent to parties or party leaders as such, but the G23 angle stands out . Congress sources said the party had not been approached about the proposed meeting.

Economists and public figures have been invited to the discussion as well. The meeting was announced soon after poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who was part of the winning TMC and DMK campaigns, met Sharad Pawar on Monday at his residence in Mumbai where they are learnt to have discussed issues pertaining to opposition unity.
Congress's absence will weaken the "unity" factor in the meeting which will nonetheless attract considerable attention. Organised by the forum "Rashtra Manch" that was launched by Sinha in 2018, the discussion is on the "present national scenario". Sinha spelt out the message behind the meeting when he listed the "failures" of the Modi government topped by Covid mismanagement and asked the opposition parties to come together to defeat the saffron outfit.

The former finance minister said parties should work to ensure that votes are not divided and their power increases, which will serve to increase the appeal of the opposition platform among people with the passage of time. Ghanshyam Tiwari, who is a member of the manch, and national spokesman of Samajwadi Party, said, "We picked the leaders first and not parties, based on their active participation in public forums on issues of national interest beyond the narrow confines of party line."

He added, "The BJP government has failed on every front, starting from development to Covid, and is instead relying on distractions. The idea behind the meeting tomorrow is to get India back on the path of progress."
Interestingly, after Kishor met Pawar, there were TV reports that the senior NCP politician had called a meeting of non-Congress opposition parties, a speculation that first gained currency after their luncheon meeting in Mumbai on June 11 that was termed as a courtesy call.

However, the nature of discussions became evident when Sinha said Congress was a key part in the opposition forces and should join in the unity efforts. “Congress should show the maturity. Besides BJP it is the only national party and it should engage in unity efforts... it should decide,” he said.
While Sinha’s comments defused the “non-Congress opposition” talk, its recurring mention is bound to be disconcerting since there is a view that the presence of Congress hurts opposition unity given that many regional parties are in direct conflict with the grand old party.

A Congress member rubbished the possibility and said there can be informal efforts by Pawar to mobilise opposition parties without Congress, but a final picture authored by him wouldn’t exclude Congress. Another office-bearer said Pawar has the ability to bring even anti-Congress regional parties on one platform, which is good from opposition point of view.


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