Opposition leaders discuss roadmap for 2024 Lok Sabha polls in mega meet in Patna
The opposition meeting is being seen as a starting point for the Opposition parties to come together to take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP
Top leaders of Opposition kicked off the mega meet as parties held deliberations at Patna on Friday, June 23, to chalk out a roadmap for the formation of an anti-BJP front for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The meeting is being hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD. As the host, Kumar presided over the meeting flanked on either side by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad.
Sources said more than 30 leaders of 15 Opposition parties participated in the meeting at the Bihar chief minister's 1, Aney Marg, residence in Patna.
The meeting was being seen as a starting point for the Opposition parties to come together to take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP, the sources said.
Therefore, a basic outline and roadmap for Opposition unity are likely to be deliberated upon with the contentious issue of seat sharing and leadership questions to be avoided for now, they said.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (TMC), her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab's Bhagwant Mann (AAP), Tamil Nadu's M K Stalin (DMK), Jharkhand's Hemant Soren (JMM), Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, Maharashtra's former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena-UBT), and NCP president Sharad Pawar are among the leaders attending the first high-level Opposition meeting.
Leaders of the PDP, CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) and the National Conference are also present at the meeting.
Sharing visuals from the meeting, Kharge, in a tweet in Hindi, said, "Protecting the Constitution and democracy is our sole responsibility. Our meeting to give a new direction to the country." A day before the crucial deliberations, fissures in the Opposition ranks came to the fore with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sources saying the party will walk out of the meeting if the Congress does not promise its support against the Centre's ordinance on the control of administrative services in Delhi.
All eyes are on the meeting's agenda and whether the Centre's ordinance on the control of administrative services in the national capital would be a key part of the discussions as the AAP wants.
Keeping cards close to its chest, the Congress has so far kept its stand ambiguous as to whether it would support the AAP or not when the ordinance is put to test in Parliament by the BJP-led Centre.
Asked about the ordinance issue and AAP's ultimatum, Kharge, before leaving for Patna on Friday morning, said his party would take a decision on it before Parliament's Monsoon session and wondered why it was being talked about elsewhere when it was a matter that pertains to Parliament.
"Opposing or proposing it does not happen outside, it happens in Parliament. Before Parliament begins, all parties decide what issues they have to work on together. They know it and even their leaders come to our all-party meetings. I don't know why is there so much publicity about it outside," Kharge said.
Ahead of the meeting, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, while addressing party workers, said all Opposition parties are going to defeat the BJP in the 2024 general elections unitedly.
Accusing the BJP of working to "divide India and spread hate and violence", he asserted that a fight of ideologies is going on in India.
"On one hand, there is the Congress' 'Bharat Jodo' ideology and on the other, the BJP and RSS' 'Bharat Todo' thinking," Gandhi said addressing party workers and leaders at the party office in Patna.
"You know that hate cannot be countered with hate. It can be defeated only with love. The Congress is working for uniting the country and spreading love," he said, adding, "That is why we have come to Bihar because the DNA of the Congress is in Bihar." "All Opposition parties have come here and together we are going to defeat the BJP," Gandhi said.
In Karnataka, the BJP leaders gave speeches and went everywhere but the result is there for all to see, the former Congress chief said.
"As soon as the Congress stood united, the BJP disappeared in Karnataka. I am saying it from this stage that the BJP will be nowhere in Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the Congress will win," Gandhi claimed.
At the same event, Kharge urged party workers to set aside their differences and fight the 2024 general elections unitedly, asserting that "if we win in Bihar, we will win the country".
Before the meeting, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin dubbed the Opposition huddle a "war cry" against a "fascist and autocratic regime." The Samajwadi Party is the only party from Uttar Pradesh attending the meeting with BSP supremo Mayawati not being invited and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary skipping the conclave due to a family programme.
Uttar Pradesh sends the maximum number of 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee, who arrived here on Thursday evening, met Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav, former Bihar CM Rabri Devi and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav earlier.
Asked what will happen at the meeting, she told reporters outside Tejashwi Yadav's residence on Thursday, "I cannot say anything now. We have come here as we will fight together, one-to-one (against the BJP). We will fight together like a family."