Sharad Yadav hogs limelight at meet

Opposition leaders refer to ‘sacrifice’ in breaking ties with Nitish-led JD(U)

August 18, 2017 12:47 am | Updated 12:47 am IST - New Delhi

One aim: Rahul Gandhi with Sharad Yadav during the Sanjhi Virasat Bachao Sammelan in New Delhi .

One aim: Rahul Gandhi with Sharad Yadav during the Sanjhi Virasat Bachao Sammelan in New Delhi .

At least 14 political parties, farmers’ movements and Dalit groups answered rebel Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav’s call to “save our composite culture” ( Sanjhi Virasat Bachao ) and unite to fight the BJP-RSS combine at an impressive gathering here.

In the recent past, the Congress has taken on the leadership role at Opposition unity meetings with its president Sonia Gandhi chairing them. On Thursday, the party was well-represented, with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel present, but the focus was on Mr. Sharad Yadav, who has emerged as a rallying point.

Speaker after speaker paid encomiums to him, even referring to the “sacrifice” he had made in breaking with the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) after the Bihar Chief Minister broke the mahagatbandhan (the grand alliance) in Bihar.

If Mr. Azad went so far as to say that Mr. Sharad Yadav was the leader of the real JD(U) and that he had declined a Cabinet berth and chosen the path of secularism, Mr. Ahmed Patel went a step further: he asked the rebel JD(U) leader to set up a sub-committee that could draw up a blueprint for the Opposition.

This was significant as this comes six days after roughly the same set of parties empowered Ms. Gandhi to set up a sub-committee to draw up a plan for the Opposition. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Mr. Yadav held the key to saving India’s syncretic culture.

On Thursday, the main venue at the Constitution Club annexe had virtually no standing space, while the Mavalankar Hall in the main building, and a shamiana on the precincts, both equipped with LED screens, accommodated the overflow. Most of those who came had been mobilised by Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) from western Uttar Pradesh, apart from those belonging to the rebel faction of the JD(U) in Bihar and Gujarat, and some from the Delhi unit of the Congress.

Mr. Gandhi, who arrived with Dr. Manmohan Singh, attacked the government for its communal agenda.

“The RSS-BJP [combine] believes that this country belongs to them; we believe that we belong to this country. The RSS-BJP wants to take from this country; we want to contribute to this country,” he said, to thunderous cheers. He took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he only spoke of a “swatch Bharat” (clean India) — what was more important was a “sach Bharat” (truthful India).

Recalling the incident in which stones were thrown at his car in Gujarat recently, he said: “I stopped the car and stepped out to talk to those who were showing me the black flag, but they ran away… If we all fight unitedly, I can tell you the BJP-RSS will not be seen anywhere.”

Mr. Sharad Yadav, echoing the same sentiments, said: “If people unite, even a Hitler cannot stand before them.”

Mr. Yechury said that while Mr. Modi spoke of not repeating Emergency, public broadcasters Doordarsan and Al India Radio blocked Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar's recorded speech for Independence Day.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said that while India could face the threats from Pakistan and China, the real danger was “the thief sitting inside who is determined to destroy everything,” in a veiled reference to the BJP-RSS combine. “We have to fight these traitors who want to destroy the country,” he said. “We are Indian Muslims not Pakistani or English Muslims. Understand our pain.”

The Janata Dal(Secular)’s Danish Ali said: “The ancestors of Farooq Abdullah, Tariq Anwar [of the NCP who attended the meeting] and Danish Ali did not choose Jinnah as their leader, but Mahatma Gandhi.”

D.Raja of the CPI said: “Our new India should be the casteless India that Ambedkar had dreamt of, not the cashless India of Mr. Modi.”

The parties that attended the meeting included the Congress, the two Left parties, the Trinamool Congress, the SP, the BSP, the RJD, the RLD, the JD(S), the JMM, the NC, and the NCP. The NCP boycotted last Friday’s meeting of the Opposition parties chaired by the Congress.

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