United Progressive Alliance chairperson and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi hosted leaders of several Opposition parties at her residence in New Delhi on Tuesday evening, ANI reported. The meeting triggered speculation about the parties discussing strategy to unite against the BJP before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, NDTV said.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party’s Ramgopal Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Kanimozhi, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Morcha’s Jitan Ram Manjhi and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference’s Omar Abdullah were among those who attended the meeting.
However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the dinner should not be seen as a political event. He said the event has been held “for friendship and better dialogue between parties.”
In February, Sonia Gandhi had urged Opposition parties to unite “outside and inside Parliament” to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre.
However, not all 17 heads of Opposition parties were expected to attend. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee deputed senior party leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay, reported. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav sent his uncle Ramgopal Yadav.
Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telugu Desam Party, which withdrew two of its ministers from the Union Cabinet on March 8, has not been invited to the dinner, NDTV quoted unidentified officials as saying. Odisha’s ruling party, the Biju Janata Dal, and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi were also not sent invitations.