As Sonia Gandhi turns 72, PM Modi tweets his best wishes.
New Delhi: Top Opposition leaders, including several high-profile chief ministers, will huddle in the national capital on Monday to discuss strategies on forming a grand alliance to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The meeting, significantly, comes a day before the results of the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram Assembly polls are due to be announced and the Winter Session of Parliament is scheduled to begin.
The meeting is expected to see heavyweights like West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah in attendance, among others. Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, are also likely to be present.
Mr Chandrababu Naidu had taken the lead in gathering all the non-NDA parties to try and form a joint strategy ahead of the 2019 polls to take on the BJP. Last month, Mr Naidu met Mr Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. CPI leaders D. Raja and Sudhakar Reddy have confirmed their participation as they were allies of the Congress alliance (mahakutumi) in the Assembly polls in Telangana. The CPI(M) will also be sending its representative to the meeting.
It is not yet clear, however, if BSP supremo Mayawati will attend the meeting or not. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is also expected to attend.
On Sunday, meanwhile, DMK president M.K. Stalin met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and discussed a range of issues. It was, incidentally, Mrs Gandhi’s 72nd birthday, and the DMK leaders wished her on the occasion. Rahul Gandhi tweeted later: “Shri Stalin and senior members of the DMK visited Sonia Ji in Delhi today to wish her on her birthday. We had a warm & cordial meeting & discussed a range of issues.” In another tweet, he said: “I look forward to continuing our dialogue & to strengthening our alliance, that has stood the test of time.”
Birthday wishes poured in from all quarters for the UPA chairperson. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Mrs Gandhi, saying in a tweet: “Best wishes to Smt Sonia Gandhi Ji on her birthday. I pray for her long and healthy life.” Senior Opposition leaders who wished Mrs Gandhi included West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav from Bihar and former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah.
At Monday’s meeting, the Opposition parties are also likely to work out a common floor strategy for the Winter Session of Parliament, including their response to government bills and issues related to the Rafale deal and farmers, sources said.
Not only the heads of non-BJP parties, but also the chief ministers of Opposition parties from Kerala, Punjab and Puducherry were invited to the meeting, they added.
However, Biju Janata Dal president and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik is unlikely to be a part of the meeting, the sources added, saying he might join the anti-BJP alliance after the general election.
This meeting was earlier planned for November 22, but had to be put off because of the Assembly polls in five states.