At Cong’s grand oath taking, all eyes on missing Maya, Akhilesh and Mamata
Rahul Gandhi zips across three state capitals today to attend the oath ceremony of Congress chief ministers, an occasion that his party is also using to showcase opposition unity. A host of opposition leaders will attend the show of strength, but the absentee list is grabbing some attention too.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav are skipping the three oath ceremonies, though they are supporting the new Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will not attend either, but has sent a representative unlike the other two leaders. Neither Mayawati, nor Akhilesh Yadav have cited any reasons for their absence.
Chartered planes will fly those attending from Rajasthan’s Jaipur, where Ashok Gehlot takes oath as chief minister at 10.30 am, to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, where Kamal Nath will be sworn in at 1.30 pm and then on to Raipur where Bhupesh Baghel will be sworn in as chief minister at 5pm. Among those who will make the dash are Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, his Karnataka counterpart HD Kumaraswamy, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, All India Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, Janata Dal (Secular) president HD Deve Gowda, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, Loktantrik Janta Dal chief Sharad Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president MK Stalin and leader Kanimozhi, a Rajasthan Congress leader, familiar with the development, said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi will attend all three ceremonies as will former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and several other senior party leaders.
Gehlot had earlier written letters to the Opposition leaders inviting them to his oath ceremony. “Assembly election is not just a victory for the Congress party but is also a victory of progressive politics, a victory for those who uphold the constitution of India and believe in the nation’s diversity and plurality,” he wrote.
“Congress is not projecting the win in Rajasthan as its own but using this as an opportunity to show the country a united face of opposition. It started from Karnataka; Congress wants to strengthen this unity before the Lok Sabha elections,” said political analyst Narayan Bareth.
The Karnataka oath ceremony earlier this year of HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal Secular, backed by the Congress, was seen as the big bang start of an opposition effort to unite to take on the BJP in next year’s national election. Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee had attended that event and their absence at the Congress events today has raised questions on the strength of that unity.
Opposition leaders came together on Sunday too, at a rally in Chennai, where MK Stalin of key ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) proposed that Rahul Gandhi be projected as the prime ministerial candidate of a joint opposition, saying he has the “ability to defeat the fascist BJP”.
The Congress has said it prefers to leave the leadership issue of an anti-BJP alliance for after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Last week, the Congress posted its best electoral performance since the 2014 general elections. It snatched Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh from the BJP. While the party swept Chhattisgarh, it just made the majority mark in Rajasthan and fell short by a whisker in Madhya Pradesh. The BSP and Samajwadi Party offered to fill the gap to keep out the BJP, which was not far behind.
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