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Oppn Leaders to Kickstart ‘Mission 2024’ with Patna Huddle

In News
June 22, 2023

PATNA:
Top leaders of Opposition parties will brainstorm at a meeting here on Friday to chalk out a roadmap for the formation of an anti-BJP front for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, with sources saying that they would look to avoid the prickly leadership question and emphasise on common ground.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Delhi counterpart and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, Maharashtra’s former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP president Sharad Pawar are among the leaders expected to attend the first high-level opposition meeting.

It is being hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav here. Sources said the meeting was being seen as a starting point for the Opposition to come together to take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP. Therefore, a basic outline and roadmap for Opposition unity are likely to be deliberated upon with the contentious issue of seat sharing and leadership questions to be avoided for now, they said.

“This is just the beginning. A meeting of minds is important. The strategy, leadership question and seat sharing are unlikely to be discussed at this stage,” a senior Opposition leader said on condition of anonymity. The leader said issues that the Opposition would jointly raise to corner the BJP would be at the top of the agenda and in this context the Manipur violence and the Centre’s alleged failure there are likely to be discussed.

With all eyes on the meeting, another interesting aspect would be Kejriwal strongly pitching for a discussion on the Centre’s ordinance on the control of administrative services in the national capital and how the Congress would respond to it. Keeping cards close to its chest, the Congress has so far kept its stand ambiguous as to whether it would support the AAP or not when the ordinance is put to test in Parliament by the BJP-led Centre.

Kejriwal on Tuesday had expressed hope that the Congress will clear its stand on the Centre’s ordinance at the June 23 meeting. The meeting also comes amid fissures in the Opposition ranks with Congress’ leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sitting on a dharna outside a block office in Bengal’s Murshidabad district demanding action against the activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress who allegedly attacked Congress workers in the run-up to the panchayat polls in the state.

The BJP has been taking swipes at the Opposition over differences within its ranks and repeatedly jabbing it over the leadership question as to who will be their prime ministerial face. Bihar Congress chief Akhilesh Prasad Singh hit back at the BJP’s criticism, saying the issue of who would be the prime ministerial face of the Opposition alliance is not important as the leadership question can be tackled collectively after defeating the BJP in the 2024 general elections.

CPI general secretary D Raja, who would be attending the meeting, hailed the Patna huddle of Opposition leaders as a step forward “in the right direction”. “This meeting is being held Immediately after the Karnataka elections. Several state elections are coming up and the Lok Sabha polls are due in 2024. This (the meeting) will give clarity,” Raja said.

The secular democratic parties coming together itself is a very positive message and that is the reason why the BJP is getting “jittery and desperate”, he claimed. Exuding confidence that the anti-BJP alliance can win in 2024, Raja said the secular democratic parties must work together keeping in view the primary objective to defeat BJP. “This is not just for winning seats and forming a government. This is to safeguard democracy, constitution, the secular fabric of the country and even safeguarding the sovereign independence of Parliament,” he said.

“When elections take place, the electoral strategy and seat sharing will be discussed at the state level. It will be based on the balance of political forces. There, I think, the secular democratic parties must be more reasonable and mutually accommodating,” the CPI leader said. The meeting also comes amid a churn in the ruling coalition in Patna as well with one of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ allies and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi walking out of the alliance and crossing over to the NDA.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya are among the other leaders who have agreed to be part of the meeting. Telangana-based Bharat Rashtra Samithi, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the YSR Congress Party are among the non-BJP parties which are likely to give the meeting a miss.