The UPA seems to have gained three new friends — for the first time — in the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha and Sharad Yadav’s Hindustan Tribal Party.
“There was no agenda for this meeting. There were no speeches. We all got together. That’s all,” said CPI leader D Raja.
His CPI(M) colleague Md Salim, who represented the party at the gathering, said, “It was not a meeting, but only a political dinner. Only the media was talking about the third front”
However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewalwala said, “This 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 the parties.”
The UPA sources said the leaders discussed the threat to freedom of expression prevailing in the country, including the control of media by the Government.
Barring NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and National Conference chief Omar Abdullah, none of the top leaders of political parties put in an appearance. TMC top boss Mamata Banerjee is preoccupied, but she was represented by her MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay.
The BSP, for the first time, sent its representative Satish Chandra Misra. The Samajwadi Party (SP) sent Ram Gopal Yadav while the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was represented by Yadav siblings — Tejasvi Yadav and Misa Bharati.
From the southern front, M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi represented the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) at 10 Janpath.
SP leader Naresh Aggarwal’s exit, a day prior to the meet, was not seen a setback, but described by UPA sources as “good riddance of bad rubbish”.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) sources pointed out that there was no way Sharad Pawar could have skipped the event, as it was he who had persuaded Sonia to come forward to initiate the meeting with secular parties on February 1.
“Today’s meeting is a natural follow up of Pawar’s ‘Save the Constitution’ initiative launched on January 26 in Mumbai,” said NCP leader DP Tripathi.
He said the NCP supremo was hosting another meeting of like-minded parties at the end of this month.
CPI(M)-Trinamool can come together after Tripura elections
The sources said post-Tripura there is so much pressure on secular parties to keep the BJP at bay that it could force the Left Parties and even the Trinamool Congress to join hands. “We are already seeing these 2 rivals from Bengal collaborate on the floor of the Parliament,” said a UPA leader.
Senior CPI (M) MP from West Bengal Md Salim, however, rubbished such a suggestion. “Post or pre Tripura there is no question of collaborating with any agent of BJP or has aligned with BJP. Mamata Banerjee picks up issues that suit the BJP,” said Salim.
He pointed out how the TMC had not signed a joint Opposition petition to the Lok Sabha Speaker to restore order in the House and discussion on Nirav Modi scam and Finance Bill.
On its part, the TMC emphasised the importance of its leader Mamata Banerjee and how she was “in the thick of opposition politics in the run-up to the 2019 election.”
In a Facebook post, party leader Derek O’Brien quoted Mamata as saying that she wouldn’t mind playing the role of a squirrel. “We will be effective without wanting to hog the limelight. One way to look at it is that the situation warrants an anti-BJP front”.
At the same, he points out that considerable momentum to the federal force would depend on what happens in Karnataka, whether Congress manages to retain it.