BJP's defeat spurs Opposition to step up alliance talks

Marsha Scott
March 16, 2018

On Wednesday, when the news of BJP receiving a drubbing in Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha by-elections came in, Congress President Rahul Gandhi chose to reach out to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.

He also said that the "electoral understanding" struck by arch rivals BSP-SP was of no outcome in the parliamentary by-elections of Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the results of which will be out on Wednesday.

Rahul Gandhi is also keen on greater contribution from the youth during the plenary and party leaders said that numerous AICC members, who will take part in the deliberations, were young in keeping with the country's demographic profile.

For now, with the Congress still to prove itself, regional satraps such as West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee and Telangana's K Chandrashekar Rao are attempting to form a non-Congress, non-BJP "third front".

It was a political dinner.

Sonia Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Randeep Surjewala were among the Congress leaders present.

Among this, there was also some new addition to the Opposition team which includes Hindustan Awami Morcha chief Jiten Ram Manjhi and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha head Babulal Marandi. That may be an indication an anti-incumbency factor will play a part in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh told PTI the outcome had brightened the prospects of the formation of a "maha gathbandhan" (grand alliance) ahead of the 2019 polls to defeat the saffron party.

"We will prepare for a situation in future when BSP, SP and Congress can come together, and also make our strategy for winning 2019 the election", said the BJP's deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya. The plenary will begin with a meeting of the steering committee on Friday which would finalise the draft resolutions. "The dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi ji for Opposition parties should not be seen from the prism of politics, it was for friendship and better dialogue between parties".

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He said Christians - who make up 2.3 percent of the population - are politically neglected because they are scattered across the country and can not be seen as a voting block.

The BJP was also set to lose in the Araria Lok Sabha by-election with the RJD establishing a convincing lead.

The show of Opposition unity will not stop at Sonia Gandhi's dinner.

Sources said that Mr Pawar is expected to host a meeting of Opposition parties on March 27.

Rahul had received some praise from the NCP leader last month, who said the Congress party chief was showing an inclination to "learn and understand" the issues facing the nation.

As a pan-India party, the Congress can not possibly be kept out of any major alliance that the Opposition may form in the near future, but its shrinking footprint makes it increasingly hard for the grand old party to play a lead role in such a coalition.

Sonia Gandhi's dinner diplomacy was reminiscent of the lunch she had hosted for Opposition leaders on February 5, 2004, after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had cut short the duration of that Lok Sabha and had announced early elections.

"The party will get around 20 seats to contest in both UP and Bihar if it goes for alliances in the two states but at the same time the organisation will face a huge setback in about 100 seats which it leave for its partners", he said. She tweeted, "Great victory".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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