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NCP boycotts Opp meet, JD(U) suspends MP for participation
The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a long time ally of the Congress which was also part of two successive UPA Governments, on Friday virtually deserted the Opposition by skipping the meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Coming in the wake of JD(U) joining hands with the BJP, this is seen as a serious setback to the Congress’ efforts to prepare an anti-BJP front in the run up to the 2019 General Elections. Pawar had earlier confirmed that he would depute a representative for the meeting.
Though the JD(U) in not part of the Opposition unity now, JD(U) MP Ali Anwar Ansari attended the meet. The JD(U) leadership soon cracked the whip against him, suspending him from the Parliamentary Party.
JD(U) general secretary KC Tyagi said calling our party members in a meeting of Opposition leaders revealed Sonia Gandhi’s wrong intentions. “We have already broken our ties with the UPA and the mahagathbandhan. By calling us she wants to create a rift between party members,” he said.
The NCP said that it skipped the meeting to express its displeasure over allegations by some Congress leaders that its two MLAs did not vote for Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections. NCP leader Praful Patel said even when his party had issued a three-line whip to its MLAs to vote for the Congress, leaders of that party were accusing it of not supporting its candidate.
“After we issued a whip to our MLAs, they voted for the Congress. Why should we be accused of not supporting it? That is why we decided to boycott this meeting,” Patel said.
Asked whether the Sharad Pawar-led party will be part of the Opposition unity, the former Civil Aviation Minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet said the issue will be decided “when the time comes”. Patel said, “The NCP is not part of the alliance in Gujarat or elsewhere with the Congress, still we supported the Congress.”
He also wondered why the NCP should run after the Congress, when the party led by Sonia Gandhi is one of the various Opposition parties.
The leaders of 16 Opposition parties, however, deliberated on evolving an “alternative narrative” to counter the BJP. They also decided to form a sub-group to chalk out plans for a joint strategy in the period before the Winter Session of Parliament begins.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee attended the meeting, besides leaders of Left parties. BSP supremo Mayawati, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, as well as representatives from the JMM, DMK, NC, RLD, JD-S, Kerala Congress and AIUDF took part in the meeting.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the Opposition parties have to build an alternative narrative to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP, whose political power has reached a historic high in the last three years after the party won a series of Assembly polls.
Yechury said after the meeting that this could be done through effective strategy and taking up pro-people issues such as agrarian crisis. The Opposition parties decided to form a sub-group to chalk out plans for a joint strategy before the Winter session of Parliament. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the agenda of the meeting was to thank presidential and vice-presidential candidates of Opposition parties.
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