19 parties leaders attend Sonia's 'dinner diplomacy'

Gladys Abbott
March 15, 2018

Prominent leaders present at the dinner were NCP's Sharad Pawar, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir), Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) and Jitan Ram Manjhi (Bihar), besides JD (U)'s Sharad Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal's (RLD) Ajit Singh.

Party leaders are divided over the call to contest alone but are confident that the results will not deter a SP-BSP-Congress alliance in 2019.

Considerable significance is being attached to the dinner in the midst of speculation about the political realignment that could take place ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections.

The dinner was hosted at the 10 Janpath residence where the leaders discussed the possibilities of all opposition parties getting together on one platform to defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, sources said.

In fact, it signified a 20-party grouping if the Congress is also counted.

Apart from Sonia, the Congress was represented by party president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, and other senior leaders including AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

In a post on social media, Rahul said, " Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji.

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The "dinner diplomacy" by Sonia, who remains the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) despite stepping down as Congress president to make way for her son Rahul a few months ago, is reminiscent of her efforts to stitch together a coalition of "like-minded parties" back in February 2004.

Congress spokesperson Jyotiraditya Scindia said the results of the by-polls clearly indicated that across the country, people had spoken out against the "anti-farmer" rule of the Central government.

Asked to comment on Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's statement that if Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav came together, BJP will be wiped out in UP, a smiling Adityanath said that if the former Bihar Chief Minister was the mentor of the two leaders, the lesser said the better. After all, political leaders cutting across party lines are all set to possibly put aside their minor differences for the "larger good" - that of mounting a challenge to BJP and its allies. Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection'.

At a parliamentary party meeting of the BJP on Tuesday, senior leaders blamed Congress party for not allowing discussion and debate in the House.

All 17 opposition parties have confirmed their attendance for Sonia's dinner.

Sonia Gandhi's dinner diplomacy was reminiscent of the lunch she had hosted for Opposition leaders on February 5, 2004, after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had cut short the duration of that Lok Sabha and had announced early elections. She tweeted, "Great victory".

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