On the table at Pawar dinner: Pre-poll tie-up and a common agendahttps://indianexpress.com/elections/lok-sabha-elections-on-the-table-at-sharad-pawar-dinner-opposition-pre-poll-tie-up-and-a-common-agenda-5582890/

On the table at Pawar dinner: Pre-poll tie-up and a common agenda

The idea was floated at a meeting of leaders of Congress (Rahul Gandhi), TMC (Mamata Banerjee), TDP (N Chandrababu Naidu), NCP (Sharad Pawar), AAP (Arvind Kejriwal) and National Conference (Farooq Abdullah) at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s house.

Opposition leaders at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s house in New Delhi on Wednesday evening. ANI

HOURS after the last sitting of the 16th Lok Sabha, leaders of six Opposition parties met Wednesday and discussed the idea of a national pre-poll alliance for the coming elections with a common minimum programme.

“We need to coordinate. It is clear that our slogan — Sabko ek rakho, desh ko bachao; Save India from disaster, from the hands of BJP, Modi and Amit Shah, resonates… Modi hatao, desh bachao… We will go in for a pre-poll alliance so that it doesn’t become a post-poll irritant… We are in agreement on the idea of a common minimum agenda/programme. Rahul will share a draft with us,” West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said after a late evening meeting.

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The idea was floated at a meeting of leaders of Congress (Rahul Gandhi), TMC (Mamata Banerjee), TDP (N Chandrababu Naidu), NCP (Sharad Pawar), AAP (Arvind Kejriwal) and National Conference (Farooq Abdullah) at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s house.

These leaders had gathered at Pawar’s residence after having lent support to an Opposition rally organised by AAP at Jantar Mantar where leaders of SP, CPI(M), CPI and RJD among others also participated. However, leaders from other parties who came in support for AAP’s rally were conspicuous by their absence at the dinner meeting.

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But the absence of the SP — which has forged an alliance with BSP in Uttar Pradesh — and the Left underlined the challenges the Opposition faces as it tries to broad-base its alliance.

Still, today’s move holds significance as the BJP has been taking a dig at these regular gatherings of Opposition leaders calling them a coalition of self-interests with no vision for the future. The agreement to prepare a common minimum programme is bid to counter this BJP narrative.

“We may have differences at state level, that is our local political compulsion. But national compulsions and the democratic compulsion demands a national alliance,” said a top leader present at the dinner meeting. He dismissed suggestions that there were disagreements among the parties over modalities of it.

“The principal target for all of us is to fight the assault on Indian institutions being carried out by Narendra Modi, by the BJP and the RSS. We have all agreed that we are going to start a conversation about a common minimum programme, we are going to start putting together the pieces and that discussion is now beginning. We have a commitment that we are all going to work together to defeat the BJP,” said Rahul Gandhi.

In fact, Banerjee said that the parties expect Rahul Gandhi (Congress) to prepare the first draft of the common minimum programme for their next meeting later this month.

While Pawar hosted the meeting, sources said the idea was initiated by TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu who has been working to facilitate coordination among Opposition parties against the BJP even as he works for the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections.

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The move, in this context, is likely to have a bearing on political realignments in different states. The first example was the presence of Gandhi and Kejriwal in the meeting even as the Congress and AAP remain non-committal towards a pre-poll alliance. Likewise, while Gandhi and Banerjee came together at Pawar’s residence, the Congress has been mulling a pre-poll electoral understanding with the Left in West Bengal.