Leaders from 21 parties come together to take on BJP as SP, BSP skip Opposition meeting
Leaders who attended the Opposition meeting said that United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, in her opening remarks, criticised the BJP-led government for “decimating institutions” and said that democracy is under threat and the Constitution is in danger.
Twenty-one opposition parties on Monday agreed to work together to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and “stop their assault on the Constitution and institutions such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission” in a key meeting ahead of the winter session of Parliament and the assembly election verdicts in five states.
The absence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), two key players from politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, was seen as a dampener, but the Opposition camp was buoyed by the presence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who attended a meeting of the grouping for the first time.
“This is a process. And this process is bringing together everybody and this will be carried out in an open, friendly and respectful manner,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi told reporters when asked about the decision by the BSP and the SP to stay away from the meeting called by Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu.
“In the meeting, I said the voices in the room are the voices of the Opposition in this country. We respect each one of them regardless how big or small they are. The goal of everybody is to defeat the BJP and protect India’s Constitution and our institutions,” Gandhi said.
“There was consensus that the BJP’s corruption on Rafale and demonetisation is simply not acceptable and we are going to fight it.... We will have similar co-ordination in the future because we are going to work together both in and outside Parliament,” he added.
Leaders who attended the meeting said that United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, in her opening remarks, criticised the BJP-led government for “decimating institutions” and said that democracy is under threat and the Constitution is in danger.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee urged the leaders to meet President Ram Nath Kovind over RBI governor Urjit Patel’s resignation.
It was in the middle of the meeting that Banerjee informed the Opposition leaders about Patel’s resignation. “The BJP is behaving like a dictator. There should be a campaign against this rule. Everybody has agreed to that,” she said. “Financial stability is not there... financial emergency has started.”
But Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury refused to sign the joint statement issued by the leaders. “I won’t sign any statement with Mamata Banerjee,” he told HT, highlighting that the differences between the parties in West Bengal were hard to overcome.
In his remarks, Kejriwal called for setting aside personal differences to protect the institutions from the onslaught.
Former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular), DMK chief MK Stalin, NCP president Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, and CPI leaders Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja attended the meeting.
LJD leader Sharad Yadav, Babulal Marandi of the JVM (Prajatantrik), AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal, Muslim League’s PK Kulhanikutty, RLD’s Ajit Singh, RSP’s NK Premchandran and HAM’s Jitan Ram Manjhi apart from senior Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Ghulam Nabi Azad were also present.
“This is a historic meeting of anti-BJP parties. Its main motto was save India, save democracy,” Naidu told reporters. “Irrespective of our political compulsions, we came together. We want to save the nation, democracy and our institutions,” he said.
The leaders decided to lay a road map for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to oust the BJP from power by evolving a common strategy. “In the course of the next few months, we will place before the people of the country, a comprehensive programme of work anchored in complete transparency and accountability,” read a joint statement issued after the meeting.
The parties also appealed to all “liberal, progressive and secular forces to join them in their battle to save the Constitution and protect parliamentary democracy”.