The Congress and various Opposition parties might be gearing up for ‘Mission 2019’ — how to take on the Narendra Modi- and Amit Shah-led electoral juggernaut, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The leaders of 20 Opposition parties on Tuesday attended the dinner hosted by United Progress Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her official residence. The political leaders were reportedly there to explore the possibility of forging a broader alliance among secular parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and Left parties, among others, attended the dinner, sources told news agencies. The dinner diplomacy was reminiscent of the lunch Sonia Gandhi had hosted for Opposition leaders on February 5, 2004, after the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led government had cut short the duration of that Lok Sabha. The dinner took place against the backdrop of a standoff between the government and the Opposition in Parliament, which has seen continuous disruptions since the start of the second half of the Budget session on March 5. How fruitful was the dinner diplomacy? At least according to Rahul Gandhi, the meeting was “fabulous”. The Congress president said there was “much political talk” during the meeting, adding that the leaders reflected tremendous positive energy, warmth, and genuine affection. However, not all of the country’s political players were present at the dinner meeting. The Aam Aadmi Party, the YSR Congress Party, and Telangana Rashtra Samiti were not invited. The Biju Janata Dal was also not represented. The TRS was an ally of the Congress in 2004 and is now its rival and the ruling party in Telangana. Besides Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, were among those present. Party leaders Ahmed Patel and A K Antony also attended the dinner. Here are the top 10 developments regarding United Progress Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s dinner meeting and political outreach: 1) Sonia to lead the charge: By hosting Tuesday’s dinner, Sonia Gandhi indicated that she, not Congress President Rahul Gandhi, would lead the effort to build a broad unity of ‘like-minded parties’ to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. 2) Sharad Pawar, Ram Gopal Yadav present at party: The prominent leaders in attendance were NCP’s Sharad Pawar, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren and Jitan Ram Manjhi, besides JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD’s) Ajit Singh. The RJD was represented by party chief Lalu Prasad’s two children — former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharti. 3) Leaders from the Left, South and Bengal also attended: It wasn’t just leaders from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who were in attendance. The other leaders present at the dinner included All India Trinamool Congress’ (TMC’s) Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M’s) D Raja and Mohammad Salim, DMK’s Kanimozhi, All India United Democratic Front’s (AIUDF’s) Baddrauddin Ajmal and leaders of Kerala Congress, besides Kupender Reddy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). ALSO READ: From Modi to non-Gandhi Congress chief: Highlights of Sonia Gandhi’s speech 4) ‘First step towards 2019 Lok Sabha polls alliance’: Later, Tejashwi Yadav and Sharad Yadav told news agencies that Sonia Gandhi’s dinner meeting was the first step towards a comprehensive alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, when he was asked if there was a consensus on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership of the probable Opposition alliance, Tejashwi said, “The time has not yet come to decide on the prime ministerial candidate.” Referring to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) pulling out of the Modi government, Tejashwi said that Opposition parties were getting together while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was “breaking apart”. The dinner diplomacy took place at Sonia Gandhi’s 10, Janpath residence where the leaders discussed the possibility of Opposition parties getting together on one platform to defeat the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to sources. ALSO READ: Mission 2019: Sonia Gandhi hosts dinner for Opposition parties 5) Rahul says ‘tremendous positive energy’: Congress President Rahul Gandhi later said there was “much political talk” during the dinner meeting. After the dinner meeting, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that there was positive energy and genuine affection during dinner. Rahul took to Twitter and wrote: “Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji.
An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally. Much political talk but much more important – tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection.”
Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji. An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally. Much political talk but much more important – tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection. pic.twitter.com/IxaAm7UPoI
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) March 13, 2018