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Focus on Opp leadership as Raut meets Rahul

Amid the churning in the opposition camp and positioning by the Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday met senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Sanjay Raut and Rahul Gandhi.

WITH MAMATA Banerjee making moves to expand Trinamool Congress’s footprint beyond West Bengal and bring together regional forces as an alternative, there is pressure on the Congress to resurrect the UPA, enlarge the coalition and adopt a model of collective leadership. It is learnt that a revamp of the UPA leadership is on the discussion table.

Amid the churning in the opposition camp and positioning by the Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday met senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The Shiv Sena, which shares power with the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra, believes an opposition grouping without the Congress will be meaningless. At the same time, sources said, the Shiv Sena wants the Congress to be accommodative.

The Congress, sources said, insists that it cannot abdicate leadership of the UPA given the fact that it is still the principle opposition party. But sources said it is amenable to the idea of creating structures to make the UPA, which is more or less defunct now, collective and representative. Raut will meet Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray now.

Efforts are on to convene a meeting of the UPA too, inviting parties which are now outside the fold of the coalition. A section of the Congress believes the party should reach out to the Trinamool Congress chief, offering her the position of convenor of a revamped UPA. Some allies too believe she should be pacified to ensure that there is no division in opposition ranks. It is to be seen whether Banerjee would be amenable to working with the UPA.

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Raut said the opposition cannot take on the BJP with multiple coalitions. He said there should be one opposition front and he has asked Gandhi to take the lead.

Raut said he discussed with Gandhi the issue of keeping the opposition united. “We discussed it. Everybody should discuss it. We have been saying that without the Congress an opposition front is not possible… It was certainly discussed. Rahul Gandhi will visit Mumbai soon. His programme is being prepared… I will speak to Uddhavji,” he said.

He said efforts are on to convene a meeting of all opposition parties to chalk out the strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “I have told Rahulji that you should take the lead. You should come forward and work on this openly.”

“Without Congress there cannot be [opposition] unity. If somebody makes another front, the front led by the Congress will still be there. Many political parties and regional parties are with the Congress even today. So what will three opposition fronts do?”

Asked about Trinamool Congress’s claim that Banerjee should lead the opposition, Raut said, “I did not take the name of any individual… or who should lead. I am only saying that there should be only one opposition front. Everyone can sit together and discuss the issue of leadership…”

On whether Shiv Sena will make efforts to bring Congress and Trinamool together, Raut said NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was capable of playing that role.

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