Sonia Gandhi lays table for Opposition dinner, whispers start on what’s cooking ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha Election

Seventeen parties invited for Tuesday’s party, buzz grows that Mamata’s interest in cobbling together a third front may have sparked former Congress chief’s move.

Published: 13th March 2018 02:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2018 06:29 AM   |  A+A-

Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi (File | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi’s attempts to rally forces against Prime Minister Narendra Modi were being keenly watched in the national capital a day ahead of her Opposition dinner on Tuesday.

The gathering assumes significance as it comes in the wake of Opposition parties joining hands to disrupt Parliament over the Punjab National Bank fraud case and helping each other in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls.

Congress sources said that all the 17 parties, which had attended a similar meeting called by Sonia on February 1, had been invited to the dinner.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) boss Sharad Pawar is likely to attend the do but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to send Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

“I have been entrusted by my party to attend and I will,” Bandyopadhyay, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader in the Lok Sabha, said.

There was a buzz in political circles that Sonia’s dinner followed Mamata’s sudden interest in cobbling up a third front of sorts ahead of the 2019 general elections. She has made phone calls to Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekar Rao and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M K Stalin.

“Parties may talk of a third front but no such grouping is possible without the Congress,” Congress Rajya Sabha member PL Punia said. Derek O’Brien, TMC Rajya Sabha leader, was quick to clarify.

“The Congress directly fights the BJP in many states. How can one exclude them?” Although Sonia’s invitation was sent to Stalin, DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi will attend the dinner.

“She will represent the party at the dinner,” said a senior party functionary.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is divided on whether or not to join hands with the Congress for the next national polls, will send party MPs Mohamed Salim and T K Rangarajan. Communist Party of India national secretary D Raja will also be present.

“The political situation is complex and everything is churning. Alignment and realignment of forces will happen and one has to wait and watch how things shape up in the coming months. As of now, every party is trying to position itself around the changes that are happening,” said Raja.

While the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Chandra Misra is likely to attend, the Samajwadi Party will send senior leader Ram Gopal Yadav. The Rashtriya Janata Dal will be represented by Tejashwi Yadav, party chief Lalu Prasad’s son. Janata Dal (United) rebel Sharad Yadav is also expected to attend the dinner.

The show of Opposition unity will not stop with Sonia’s dinner but will continue at NCP chief Pawar’s residence at March-end.

NCP sources said Pawar had called a meeting of all Opposition leaders to discuss a strategy for the 2019 general elections.Party leader Praful Patel met Mamata in Kolkata last week and invited her for the meet. Sources said she had confirmed she would attend Pawar’s meeting.

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