A day before a crucial meeting of Opposition parties in Delhi to brainstorm about the possibility of forging a joint front to take on the BJP in the 2019 elections, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M.K. Stalin on Sunday met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
Describing his party's relationship with the DMK as one that stood the test of time, the Congress chief took to twitter to inform that leaders of the two parties discussed a range of issues and would continue their dialogue.
"Shri Stalin & senior members of the DMK, visited Sonia Ji in Delhi today, to wish her on her birthday. We had a warm & cordial meeting & discussed a range of issues. I look forward to continuing our dialogue and to strengthening our alliance, that has stood the test of time,” said Mr. Gandhi on twitter and shared photos where Mr. Stalin was seen offering a bouquet to his mother and an angavastram (stole) to him.
Mamata, Naidu, Pawar to attend
More than a dozen parties are expected to attend the Opposition meet that comes just a day ahead of the results of the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram.
Exit polls have shown the Congress doing well in three of the five States including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and that could boost the Opposition's efforts for a common 2019 strategy.
The presence of Opposition heavyweights such as the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu, NCP boss Sharad Pawar, and Mr. Stalin among others will increase the Opposition's unity index a day before the winter session begins on Tuesday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will also be attending a joint Opposition meeting for the first time.
Ms. Banerjee, who arrived in Delhi on Sunday evening told reporters at the airport, “I have come because all have come for the meeting.”
Apart from Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Gandhi, senior Congress leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge will also attend.
Other senior leaders who will participate include Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Ajit Singh of the RLD, Sitaram Yechury of the CPI (M), D. Raja and Sudhakar Reddy of the CPI, DMK’s Kanimozhi, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and Danish Ali from the JD(S), among others.
Feelers to SP, BSP
In the recently concluded Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, neither the BSP nor the SP was a part of any alliance with the Congress.
Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel are learnt to have met on Sunday evening to explore if these parties could send in their representatives. They also discussed the agenda of the meeting.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has taken the lead in gathering all non-NDA partied to try and form a joint strategy ahead of the 2019 elections to take on the BJP. “Any understanding will have to be at the level of the State as each State has a different situation. Whether it was the United Front in 1996 or the UPA in 2004, the entities that were formed to run coalition governments came into existence after elections,”Mr Yechury told The Hindu .
Interestingly, in the recently concluded election of Telangana, the CPI (M) contested the elections separately from the Congress-led mahakutumi (grand alliance) that included TDP and CPI.
“There is a common understanding among these parties at the national level to take on the BJP in order to defend the Constitution and save the secular, democratic fabric of our country. But the electoral tactical line could be State specific,”said D Raja, national secretary of the CPI.