When the Opposition parties meet next month on June 13 in Patna in Bihar, the leaders would be focussed on finding a common agenda and there would be no talk on the prime ministerial candidate, according to a report by PTI.
The PTI reported that the issues that would feature in the common agenda of the Opposition are inflation, unemployment, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the issue of caste census in Bihar.
The report said that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar is expected to present a common minimum programme.
For the past many weeks, the Opposition leaders are criss-crossing the country to arrive at a common ground ahead of the 2024 general elections to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. First, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held these meetings, such as with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav, and then Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal held a similar round of meetings.
Notably, Mamata appears to have given up her objections to the inclusion of the Congress party in a grand Opposition alliance. In what could be key to Opposition unity, she said the Opposition should support a party in its pocket of influence, such as supporting SP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in UP, Congress in Karnataka, and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal.
What did the report say?
The PTI cited a source in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a partner of Nitish's Janata Dal-United (JD-U), who has been at the forefront of Opposition unity efforts, to reprot that there are no talks on the lines of picking a prime ministerial candidate.
"The meeting is the first step. A common agenda will be finalised," The PTI quoted the leader as saying.
The issues in the meeting would include caste census, inflation, unemployment, etc.
"Inflation and unemployment are issues which affect everyone, drawing people's attention to the fact that it is government's economic mismanagement, a result of bad decisions like demonetisation and faulty GST, is an important issue. Apart from this, communal harmony, misuse of government agencies and subversion of democracy are important issues," the source told PTI.
Sources also told PTI that NCP leader Sharad Pawar is likely to present a common minimum programme.
A leader from another Opposition party told PTI that they are likely to discuss the formation of a team of senior leaders who will go to different states, talk to leaders as well as hold meetings and conferences to mobilise support for the Opposition.
While a formal alliance between the opposition parties is unlikely, the idea is to work on a formula of having one winnable Opposition candidate in all seats.
Who all are attending the meeting?
Most of the Opposition parties and leaders are attending the meeting. Some have stayed away because of their opposition to the Congres party.
The PTI has the following leaders to have accepted the invitation for the meeting.
- Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi
- West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
- Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav
- Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren
- former chief minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray
- NCP chief Sharad Pawar
- Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin
- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal
- CPI general secretary D. Raja
- CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya are the other leaders who have agreed to be part of the meeting
While this paints an enthusiastic picture of the event, PTI notes that at least Opposition partners have stayed away.
"Telangana-based Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are among those who are skipping the meet due to differences with the Congress," reports PTI.