Amid speculation on a possible federal front to take on the BJP, NCP chief Sharad Pawar will host a meeting of the Rashtra Manch, a cross-party platform, at his residence on Tuesday. Pawar’s decision is being seen as a move to test the political waters.
While the Rashtra Manch, a political action group set up by former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha in January 2018, has been meeting on and off, the invitees for Tuesday’s meeting include leaders of parties not associated with the forum so far.
Pawar’s initiative comes at a time when Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has given a call for formation of a federal front to take on the BJP.
“I am firmly of the view that as far as Opposition unity is concerned, we should not wait for the best to happen, and start with whoever is willing. It should be a coalition of the willing,” Yashwant Sinha, who returned to active party politics in March by joining the TMC, told The Indian Express.
According to sources, Congress leaders Manish Tewari and Shatrughan Sinha, former union minister Arun Shourie, AAP MP Sanjay Singh, NCP MP Majeed Memon, SP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari, former JD(U) leader Pavan Varma and non-political figures like former Ambassador K C Singh and Professor Arun Kumar are among those who have attended the Rashtra Manch’s meetings in the past.
But this time, others including RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his CPI counterpart D Raja have also been invited.
However, both Congress leaders Manish Tewari and Shatrughan Sinha are likely to be absent. Tewari said he was in his Lok Sabha constituency in Punjab.
RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha said he had received the invitation, but would not be able to attend the meeting since he was scheduled to travel to Bihar on Tuesday. The two Left leaders are also unlikely to attend the meeting.
“We don’t know whether heads of parties or formal representatives of political parties will attend…what is the composition and agenda of the meeting… nothing is clear.. we will take a call tomorrow morning,” said Raja.
Yashwant Sinha said while the meeting had been called by the Rashtra Manch, NCP leader Memon, who is a founding member of the forum, had informed Pawar about it. “Pawar happens to be in Delhi tomorrow. So he suggested that he would like to meet the members of the Rashtra Manch… at his place… we decided to accept his invitation,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of the emergence of an anti-BJP electoral front, he said: “I can’t predict anything….we certainly would want to give a strong fight to the ruling dispensation in 2024.”
Asked who would lead such a front, he said: “I don’t want to fall in that trap. Who led the movement in 1977… who was the prime ministerial candidate. These are all traps that people lay… if you look at the history of electoral politics in India, you will find that political parties including the BJP have at times announced the prime ministerial or chief ministerial face and contested elections… most times, they have not announced any face…and still contested the election. Let’s see…2024 is still three years away… a lot of water will flow under the bridge by then.”
In Mumbai, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said the aim of the meeting was to “put up a joint Opposition front”. “Pawar Saheb had earlier announced his intent of putting up a joint Opposition front. The initiation of this work begins from tomorrow,” he said.
Malik said “a discussion will be held on the upcoming parliamentary session and the political situation in the country”.
The NCP will also hold its National Executive meeting in Delhi on Tuesday.
– With ENS inputs, Mumbai
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines