National Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has called on Opposition parties for a meeting on Tuesday amid speculations over the formation of a consolidated Opposition against the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the 2022 Assembly polls in several states.
The meeting will be held at the NCP chief's Delhi residence at 4 pm on Tuesday, as per party leader Nawab Malik.
"Sharad Pawar ji and Shri Yashwant Sinha ji are co-chairing a discussion on the present national scenario," reads the invite sent out by Rashtra Manch, headed by Sinha, according to NDTV. "Yashwant Sinha has requested your kind presence and participation in the meeting."
On his part, Sinha reportedly made an oblique reference to the Congress when he appealed for the Opposition's support for the meeting.
NDTV quoted him as saying, "It is a good time for the opposition to come together. But along with it, I'll also say this " there is an English proverb that 'Let the best not be the enemy of the good'. Let us do whatever we can and not get comfortable waiting for the best to take an intiative."
What is Rashtra Manch?
The Rashtra Manch is a coalition of Opposition parties that was formed in 2018 to counter the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. This is the first time Pawar will participate in the meeting of the outfit, reports Scroll.in.
The meet comes ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur slated for early next year.
When does this meeting come?
This meeting comes, as poll strategist Prashant Kishor, met with Pawar on Monday, their second meeting this month amid heightened speculation about the possible formation of a Third Front to take on the BJP.
The closed-door discussions between Kishor and Pawar at the latter's residence lasted for about one-and-a-half hours, unnamed sources told PTI. The meeting comes a day before the NCP's general body meeting scheduled to be held at Pawar's residence.
Kishor, who was instrumental in the Trinamool Congress' victory in the recent West Bengal Assembly elections, had also met Pawar on 11 June, fuelling the talk of opposition parties coming together against the BJP.
However, details of the discussion between Sharad Pawar and Prashant Kishor, whose firm I-Pac worked with Shiv Sena in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, were not immediately known, reported Hindustan Times.
When asked about the NCP chief's meeting with the poll strategist, Malik said that Pawar is working to unite all Opposition leaders. "Maybe, the meeting was to discuss it. The party's national executive meeting is also taking place in the national capital tomorrow," Malik was quoted as saying by PTI.
However, the poll strategist told NDTV that he doesn't believe a third or fourth front can successfully challenge the BJP. "I rule out an association with any such third front gathering", he told the TV news channel.
"I don't believe a Third or Fourth Front could emerge as a successfully challenge to the current dispensation," he added.
Additionally, the report said, "Kishor says these one-on-one meetings with the NCP chief are for both men to get to know each other better. Neither has worked closely together in the past.
His dramatic clarification is meant to set at rest speculation that his meetings with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar are meant to bring together a Third Front type gathering for the 2024 general elections.
Kishor, who had been part of the BJP's 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, later became a poll strategist for several non-NDA parties.
He had handled the poll strategy of the TMC in the West Bengal Assembly polls and for the DMK in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections this year. He had also been a poll strategist for the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) alliance in the 2015 Bihar assembly polls.
News18 reports that the Kishor-Pawar meeting is coincidentally taking place at a time when top Shiv Sena leaders in Maharashtra have gone on record stating that their relationship with Modi was not broken even though they are not politically together now.
Which parties have been invited?
According to NDTV invitations have gone to several parties on behalf of Sharad Pawar and former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who joined the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee just before the Bengal election.
The Quint, citing unnamed sources reported that invitations have also been sent to the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Communist Party of India (M), Janata Dal (Secular), Shiv Sena, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and J&K National Conference among others.
As per Malik, several prominent Opposition leaders, including NC leader Farooq Abdullah, TMC's Yashwant Sinha, former JD(U) leader Pawan Verma, AAP's Sanjay Singh, CPI (M)'s D Raja along with personalities like Justice AP Singh, Javed Akhtar, KTS Tulsi and senior journalist Karan Thapar, advocate Majeed Memon, Samajwadi Party leader Ghanshyam Tiwari, and former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi will attend the meeting.
What to expect from the meeting?
The meeting comes shortly after the election victory in the West Bengal Assembly elections and has come as a shot in the arm for the Opposition, giving it the confidence to take on the saffron party on the national front.
Several parties have reportedly indicated their willingness to join an alliance minus the BJP or the Congress, sources have indicated to News18.
NCP leader Nawab Malik has also said the "prominent political leaders and eminent persons" will be discussing the current political situation in the country and the upcoming Lok Sabha session. "Sharad Pawar will work to unite all the Opposition parties in the country from tomorrow," Malik added.
NDTV also reported that sources have indicated that apart from talks on a joint opposition candidate to challenge BJP's face, Narendra Modi, tomorrow's meeting will also facilitate an "exploratory exercise" to try and evolve an alternative to the BJP focusing on Uttar Pradesh, where there is sharp discontent against the BJP's Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
With input from agencies