Rashtra Manch meets at Pawar’s home, calls for ‘alternative vision’
Prominent Opposition leaders and civil society members assembled at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Delhi on Tuesday and discussed issues of fuel price rise, unemployment and the need for creating an alternative vision for India.
But the discussions at the two-hour meeting didn’t mention the formation of a third front to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) because no Congress leaders attended the meeting, said leaders present at the event.
“The broader purpose of the meeting was to discuss people-centric issues. Attendees stressed on the need for an alternative vision for the country and a team will be formed to realise that vision,” said Samajwadi Party leader Ghanshyam Tiwari .
The meeting was called by Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Yashwant Sinha on behalf of Rashtra Manch, an anti-BJP platform that he co-founded in 2018, Three leaders of the Congress were invited for the event but none showed up, and Pawar made it clear that no discussion of a third front could take place without involving them, said leaders who attended the meeting.
“Narendra Modi wasn’t mentioned even once, nor was a third front,” said former Rajya Sabha member Pavan Varma. “There can be no discussion of a third front without the Congress. Mr Pawar felt that the forum should be broadened with the inclusion of other parties and personalities.”
The meeting sparked political speculation on Monday as it was announced soon after Pawar met election strategist Prashant Kishor. Kishor denied the two events were linked, but NCP’s Nawab Malik declared that the meeting reflected how Pawar will be working to unite Opposition parties.
“Yashwant ji said this meeting was taking place in a restrictive pandemic environment, that’s why many leaders like Manish Tewari, who usually attend all meetings, didn’t turn up,” said Tiwari, also a founding member of Rashtra Manch.
Apart from Tiwari, the meeting was attended by National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Jayant Chaudhary, NCP’s Praful Patel, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sushil Gupta, Communist Party of India’s Binoy Viswam and Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Nilotpal Basu. They discussed issues such as fuel price rise, unemployment and the need for social stability and harmony in the country.
Another attendee said on the condition of anonymity that Kashmir also figured in the discussion but not in detail. “It was a general discussion about how to improve the state of the nation,” he said.
When asked if there was any mention of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as a potential prime ministerial candidate for the third front, Tiwari said no individual leaders were discussed.
The meeting was also attended by civil society members, including former Delhi high court chief justice AP Shah, former ambassador K C Singh and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Neither the Congress nor the BJP reacted to the meeting.
NCP leader Majid Menon said it was not a meeting for forming an anti-BJP front or a non-Congress front. “It was not an anti-BJP political front meeting called by Sharad Pawar. It was a meeting of Rashtriya Manch held at his residence. Like-minded individuals or people with the same ideology attended the meeting and there were several apolitical personalities present in the meeting,” Menon said.