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Sonia Gandhi send invites to top leaders for another ‘United Opposition’ show

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi once again invited top opposition leaders including, Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray and other Chief Ministers to a meeting aimed at consolidating the unity displayed by the parties versus the government in parliament.

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Besides the Chief Ministers of Bengal and Maharashtra, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren have also been invited to the virtual meeting on August 20. The online interaction will likely set the stage for another lunch or dinner meet the Congress is planning in Delhi.

Over 15 opposition parties put up a united front in parliament in the monsoon session, which barely functioned because of disruptions and protests over issues like the Pegasus snooping scandal, the rising fuel prices and the farmers’ agitation over three central laws.

Opposition parties marched this morning to protest against what they call the government’s bullying. A meeting at Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s room in parliament saw even Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Sanjay Singh joining in.

Yesterday, the Lok Sabha was adjourned two days early and hours later, amid chaos and protests, the Rajya Sabha was too. The opposition alleges that marshals manhandled their members in the upper house.

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“The opposition is united. On 20th August, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi will speak to Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will also take part in this meeting,” said Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said.

The Congress’s plan is to take this unity forward, said party leaders, adding that other opposition parties were also being sounded out.

Sonia Gandhi’s initiative suggests an effort to ensure the Congress’s pivotal role in opposition unity moves to take on the ruling BJP in the 2024 election.

Questions about whether the Congress is up to the task of leading the opposition have blended with doubts about the Gandhis’ leadership.

The last opposition meeting was held recently at the home of Congress leader Kapil Sibal, one of the party veterans rooting for change in the Congress leadership.

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Mr Sibal had invited Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference. The Akali Dal, a former BJP ally, was also invited and so was Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal.

But the absence of the Gandhis was conspicuous.

Omar Abdullah said in the meeting that whenever the Congress is strong, the opposition becomes stronger. He questioned what steps were being taken to strengthen the party.

Naresh Gujral of the Akali Dal launched a direct attack on the Gandhis, saying “unless the party gets out of the clutches of the family it will be very difficult to strengthen the party”.

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