Congress president Sonia Gandhi has invited Opposition parties for a joint press conference, during which it is likely to launch a forceful attack on the government over issues such as demonetisation and “subversion” of institutions. Ahmed Patel, Sonia’s political secretary, called up leaders of the Left parties, JD(U), RJD, JD(S) and NCP. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad also spoke to some Opposition leaders about the joint press conference, which could be organised at Delhi’s Constitution Club on December 27.
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The event will not be held at the AICC headquarters to avoid the impression of it being a “Congress event”. The joint press conference, in fact, seems to be an attempt to revive the Opposition unity which, according to some parties, took a beating after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi led a Congress team to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi hours before an Opposition delegation was to meet President Pranab Mukherjee on the demonetisation issue.
The meeting, on the last day of the winter session of Parliament, irked many Opposition parties. The SP, BSP, NCP, DMK, CPM, CPI and JD(S) boycotted the meeting with Mukherjee. The JD(U), TMC, RJD and RSP accompanied the delegation. Later, leaders from the SP and NCP slammed the Congress for meeting the PM unilaterally to raise the issue of agrarian distress.
Many Congress leaders had then privately admitted their discomfiture over the meeting with the PM at a time the Opposition was closing ranks against the government over the demonetisation issue. In fact, the development came only two days after Rahul claimed he had “information” on the “personal corruption” of Modi.
According to a leader from an Opposition party, the Congress’s initiative to hold the joint press conference is apparently aimed at “undoing the damage”, and hoped that it would bring the parties together.
Patel has already called up leaders, including CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, RJD’s Prem Chand Gupta, NCP’s Tariq Anwar and JD(S)’s Danish Ali. When contacted, most of these leaders confirmed to The Indian Express that the Congress leadership had reached out to them.
Danish Ali said, “JD(S) has decided in principle to send a party representative for the joint press conference on December 27, which will be addressed by Sonia Gandhi.”
Asked about the issues that could come up at the press meet, Ali said, “Obviously demonetisation has to be the main issue. The other issue could be subversion and repeated demolition of institutions by this government. We will jointly expose the government on many issues.”
Apart from demonetisation, the Congress and other parties had also criticised the move to announce Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army chief, superseding two seniors. Opposition parties had earlier slammed the government for “taking over” some institutions.
RJD’s Prem Chand Gupta confirmed his party’s participation, while Sharad Yadav said his party would take a decision soon. Tariq Anwar said that “most probably NCP will send a representative for the event”.
CPI general secretary D Raja told The Indian Express on phone, “I am travelling to Kerala and Tamil Nadu and have not yet finalised my return to Delhi,” he said.
Yechury could not be contacted. TMC’s Derek O’ Brien said he would be busy this week due to Christmas. T Siva (DMK) said he had no idea about the event but was not sure whether the Congress had approached others in his party.