Sonia to chair 18 oppn parties’ meet today, AAP not invited

But the meeting, to be chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will not have Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) even as it was a crucial part of the opposition’s united floor management in the recent monsoon session of Parliament.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Updated on Aug 20, 2021 04:09 AM IST
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By Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

At least 18 opposition parties were scheduled to meet virtually on Friday to strategise on reaching out to the people on issues such as the economic slowdown, the alleged mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pegasus spyware controversy, and the farmers’ protest,

But the meeting, to be chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will not have Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) even as it was a crucial part of the opposition’s united floor management in the recent monsoon session of Parliament.

“We have not invited AAP as the meeting is chaired by the Congress president,” said a top leader who would be present in the virtual meeting. “Both the AAP and the Congress are uncomfortable sharing the same political platform,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) member Shiromani Akali Dal has also not been invited, party functionaries confirmed. The Akalis quit the NDA last year over the three controversial farm laws, but instead of aligning with the mainstream opposition parties, they have kept their focus on the farm laws and are treading a separate path. With elections in Punjab due in six months, the Congress and its rival Akalis would not be interested in sharing a common platform against the NDA.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has been invited but the UP-based party has not confirmed its participation.

The meeting takes off from a new-found unity among the opposition parties during the Parliament session when several anti-NDA parties joined hands on every single issue and nearly washed out the monsoon session.

“This Parliament session was one of the worst in history. Almost none of the people’s issues were discussed in it. Now, we are meeting to decide how to take these issues to the people. We will discuss the Covid mismanagement, economic situation, Pegasus, farmers protests and the struggle of the workers in the wake of privatisation,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, a key figure in achieving this opposition unity.

Apart from Gandhi and Yechury, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda and other leaders would attend the meeting.

The date of the meeting also coincides with late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary, but the organisers claim the anniversary has nothing to do with it and the date was chosen as all leaders could make themselves available.

The biggest challenge for the opposition, however, is how to reach out to the people in this prevailing Covid pandemic. “That’s also a key topic of discussion. But whatever we do, we will comply with the Covid protocol,” Yechury said.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021