The big opposition meet in Patna on June 23 will bring together several parties that have been at loggerheads for years. It will be attended by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and party chief Mallikarjun Kharge. They are likely to find themselves face to face with some the party’s most vocal critics — Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Akhilesh Yadav.
Ms Banerjee will also share the platform with leaders of the Left Front, her bitter political rivals for decades. Also present will be Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief MK Stalin, his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren, Shiv Sena UBT chief Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, Janata Dal United National President Rajiv Ranjan told reporters in Patna today.
“We believe that our unity and commitment to the purpose of defending democracy is the need of the hour and we will succeed in defeating the divisive forces in power today,” Congress’s KC Venugopal said in Delhi.
Ahead of the June 23 meet, most of the leaders are expected to meet in Chennai at the birth centenary functions of M Karunanidhi.
For the big Patna meet, the agenda is expected to be a common strategy for the Lok Sabha election — what has been billed as the one-on-one contest. This involves fielding only one opposition leader against a BJP candidate in a constituency to stop a split in opposition votes.
Several leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee, have expressed their views in favour of it.
Most opposition leaders have said they are on the same page on the need to stop the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha election — their voices strident after the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from parliament.
The other catalyst to the unity was the Centre’s move to supercede a Supreme Court order restoring the control of bureaucrats in Delhi to the elected government.
Hoping to stop the bill in question in Rajya Sabha in the coming monsoon session of parliament, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann have made a tour of Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to seek support of the opposition parties. Today, they are in Uttar Pradesh to meet Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Last month, 20 opposition parties had unitedly boycotted the opening ceremony of the new parliament house. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s opening of the building was an “insult” to President Droupadi Murmu, the parties had said.
In May, the opposition had a show of strength during the oath ceremony of Siddaramaiah after Congress victory in the Karnataka assembly elections.
Nitish Kumar – who is volunteering as the opposition interlocutor – was present along with his deputy Tejashwi Yadav. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah had also attended the programme.