Leaders of six regional parties met at Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence on Thursday to work out a joint strategy to revive their sagging political fortunes and present a united challenge to the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.
Coming ahead of this month’s winter session in Parliament, the meeting included former Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Deve Gowda.
“The BJP government’s failure to honour its pre-election promises of bringing back black money and providing employment to the youth are major concerns today, apart from the demand of providing farmers a remunerative price for their products,” Kumar said after the meeting at Yadav’s residence in the Capital.
“The specifics of a joint campaign on these three issues will be discussed at a series of meetings that are being scheduled.”
Between them, all the parties present in Thursday’s meeting have less than 20 MPs in the 543-member Lok Sabha. A similar attempt to form a non-Congress, non-BJP third front before the Lok Sabha polls had come to nothing and it is important for these parties to present a unified face in the run-up to the Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand assembly elections if they are to stave off political isolation.
The former Bihar chief minister said there was unanimity among leaders over the need for a joint campaign programme both inside and outside Parliament.
“Our attempt will be to rope in the Left and other like-minded parties into the group,” Kumar said.
Other leaders present at the two-hour lunch meeting were Kamal Morarka of the Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP), Dushyant Chauthala of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, Prem Chand Gupta of the RJD and the SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav.
“The central government is going in wrong direction. The programmes, which the UPA government had started, it (the BJP) is pursuing the same with denting and painting,” said Lalu Prasad.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik were conspicuous by their absence. Nitish Kumar said they had not been invited.
“Various matters, including Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s possible inclusion in the grouping, were discussed,” Kumar said, refusing to comment on who would be leader of the proposed group.
(With agency inputs)