The Opposition parties took the first step on Friday to forge opposition unity at their meeting in Bihar's Patna.
Speaking at the press conference after the meeting, the meeting's convenor Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal-United (JD-U) said that 17 Opposition parties have decided to contest the 2024 general elections together against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
This is in line with the formula floated earlier by Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief nad West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had also floated the idea of Patna meeting, that said that an Opposition party in its area of strength should be supported by all the other Opposition parties, such as Samajwadi Party being supported by all others in Uttar Pradesh and everyone supporting TMC in West Bengal.
Top Opposition leaders attended the meeting in Patna, such as TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Congress chief Mallkikarjun Kharge, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Maharashtra's former CM Uddhav Thackeray, former J&K CM Omar Abdullah, former J&K CM and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, NCP president Sharad Pawar, and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav also attended the meeting.
Nitish also said that this was first of the many meetings that would firm-up the Opposition alliance against the BJP.
The next meeting of the Opposition parties would take place in Himachal Pradesh's Shimla.
Here is what the Opposition leaders leaders said after the meeting.
Almost everything will be finalised in the next meet: Nitish
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who hosted the meeting, said that almost the entire future plan of the Opposition alliance would be finalised in the next meeting.
The next meeting is to be held in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
"Very positive talks were held today and we have decided to contest (Lok Sabha polls) together. Another meeting of all the (opposition) parties will be held to decide the next course of action. In that meeting, almost everything will be finalised. Mallikarjun Kharge will chair that meeting early next month...We have come together in national interest; those in power at Centre are against national interest," said Nitish.
There will be differences, but we have decided to work together: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi acknowledged that there will be differences between the Opposition parties comprising the coalition against BJP but the parties have decided to work together.
He said, "It is a battle of ideologies. Indeed, there will be differences amongst us but we have decided to work together and protect the ideologies shared by us."
Rahul also said that the Opposition unity is a process that will now move forward.
"Like Mallikarjun Kharge and Nitish Kumar said, we will take this discussion to more depth in the next meeting. The opposition unity is a process, which will move onwards from here," said Rahul.
We are trying to come to a common agenda: Kharge
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said that the parties are trying to come to a common agenda to fight the BJP.
He said, "We all are trying to come to a common agenda to fight together. We will next meet on July 10 or 12 in Shimla again...Common agenda for fighting 2024 LS polls together to be finalised in next meeting."
If Modi wins, it will be last election: Mamata
TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the 2024 general elections, then it would be the last general election in India.
Mamata further said, "I told Nitish Kumar to start a meeting from Patna and it will turn into a public movement. Last meeting, we held in Delhi but it wasn't fruitful. This meeting has been good...We have resolved on three things: We are united. We will fight unitedly. Don't call us opposition, we are also citizens of this country...We will fight together against the political vendetta of the BJP. Let our blood flow, but we will protect the people and the country. Next meeting will be held in Shimla."
Similar comments have been made earlier by other leaders as well. At a rally in Delhi, Punjab CM and AAP leader Bhagwant Mann compared Modi to Russian President Vladimir Putin and said that if Modi won next year, he would amend the Constitution and make himself leader for life.
People want us to fight BJP-RSS: Lalu Prasad Yadav
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav said that the people of the country want the Opposition parties to fight the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Signalling that he would be part of the Opposition election efforts, Lalu said that he is now fit and can take on the BJP.
Lalu further said, "People of our country want us to fight unitedly against BJP and RSS...PM Modi distributing sandalwood in US when country facing problems; I'm fit now, can take on him."
(With PTI inputs)