Opposition Meets Tomorrow To Chart Course For 2019 Grand Alliance

New Delhi: 

A day before the results of the assembly polls in five states are declared, the opposition is holding a meeting to discuss a grand alliance for next year’s national polls. The meeting, to be held in Delhi, has been called by Chandrababu Naidu, who has taken on the challenging task of bringing the disparate opposition parties under a single umbrella to take on the BJP in 2019.

Mayawati, who has a large following among the Scheduled Castes — especially in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number of lawmakers to the Lok Sabha — is likely to give the meeting a miss, sources said.

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, an absentee in all such gatherings, has however, agreed to attend, sources said.

Both parties have been unhappy with the Congress – Mayawati after seat sharing talks for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh failed and the Aam Aadmi Party after the Congress failed to respond to its feelers for a tie-up for 2019.

Talks of a broad opposition alliance have been on since the oath ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in May. With the new Chief Minister of Karnataka inviting all leaders, the occasion had doubled up as the first unofficial meet for Grand Alliance. The huge reverses of the BJP in a string of by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in March had given weight to the idea.

It is not known yet whether all regional leaders are on board with the idea of a common front with the Congress in it. While Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has always spoken in support of an alliance, she has also met with Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K Chandrashekar Rao, who is working towards a non-Congress, non-BJP front.

Ms Banerjee has also made it clear that she wants a bigger and more central role for the national parties.

In Odisha, Biju Janata Dal chief and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has maintained a non-aligned stance. In the election for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman in August, his nine lawmakers had voted for the government in what would have been a close-fought election.

Chandrababu Naidu, who ended his decades-long rivalry with the Congress recently, admits that “one or two parties” may have a difference of opinion. But “It is for people to sink their differences… Democracy is important”.

Mr Naidu has already met a string of opposition leaders including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal over the last few weeks.

Besides Mamata Banerjee, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, DMK’s Stalin, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Tejashwi Yadav, HD Kumaraswamy and others are likely to be there for the meeting, which will be held on the eve of the winter session of parliament.

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