Opposition leaders likely to issue joint statement on a host of issues

Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, M.K. Stalin, Sharad Pawar expected to attend virtual meeting convened by Sonia Gandhi.

August 19, 2021 09:55 pm | Updated 10:57 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File


Top Opposition leaders are likely to adopt a joint resolution/statement on a host of issues, including the recent washout of the monsoon session of Parliament, after a virtual interaction with each other at a meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar would be the among the leaders attending Ms. Gandhi’s meeting.

Also read | Sonia Gandhi hoists tricolour, reclaims centre stage

Although the list of invitees isn’t public yet, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) may not be among the invitees.

The joint statement, which is expected to be adopted by the Opposition leaders, is a work in progress. Senior leaders from the Congress and other Opposition leaders have exchanged notes on the issues that are likely to figure, said a source on Thursday.

Opposition parties would squarely hold the government responsible for the monsoon session’s washout by refusing to discuss the snooping controversy and the use of the Pegasus spyware, thereby “not allowing” the Opposition to raise other important issues.

Also read | United Opposition can make a difference in 6 months: Mamata Banerjee

The joint statement is also likely to mention the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws, the need to scale up the pace of vaccination in order to contain a possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinvestment of “profitable public sector enterprises”, the “fragile” state of the economy, job losses during the pandemic, and the demand for cash transfers for those who have lost their incomes because of repeated lockdowns during the pandemic.

The alleged “indiscriminate” use of sedition laws against activists and political workers could also be part of the statement, said a source.

The chosen date for the Opposition leaders to come together on a common platform is significant — August 20 also marks the 77th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi.

The virtual meet could set the stage for discussions to have a more formal structure, and if the pandemic situation permits, Opposition leaders could also have a physical meeting next month.

“Ms. Gandhi wants to keep the momentum going in terms of the Opposition unity that one saw during the Parliament session, when Rahul Gandhi hosted a breakfast for Opposition leaders,” said one Opposition leader.

Ms. Gandhi’s meet is also seen in the backdrop of a dinner hosted on August 9 by Kapil Sibal — a member of the Congress’ group of 23 dissenters — which was attended Mr. Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal patriarch Lalu Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), D. Raja of the Communist Party of India, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, and Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena, among others. At that dinner, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is said to have argued that for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, a united Opposition can field 400 joint candidates against the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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