Sonia Gandhi hosts dinner for 17 Opposition leaders at 10 Janpath

Rahul Gandhi for all-out support to farmers

Rahul Gandhi for all-out support to farmers

The 20 parties came together on a common platform at a dinner hosted by former Congress president and Chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party Sonia Gandhi, an attempt to forge a united Opposition front to challenge the ruling BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sources in the SP and BSP, however, maintained that the dinner meet can not be seen as an attempt to forge an alliance and that "regional parties" will continue to have an "inevitable greater control in state politics".

The dinner was attended by Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and his party colleague Tariq Anwar, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Tejashwi Yadav and his sister Misa Bharti from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Kanimozhi of the DMK, Rashtriya Lok Dal President Ajit Singh and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party.Hemant Soren of JMM, Badruddin Ajmal of AIUDF, Mohd Salim of CPM, D Raja of CPI have also joined the dinner party.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, "Dinner hosted by Sonia ji for Opposition parties should not be seen from the prism of politics, it was for friendship and better dialogue between parties".

Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "Fabulous dinner tonight".

TRS chief and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also spoke enthusiastically about a federal front. Sonia Gandhi had earlier called for Opposition unity, saying parties should set aside their minor differences to get together in the larger interest of keeping the BJP out of power.

Asked about government's plans to deal with disruptions by friendly political parties such as the TDP, AIADMK and the TRS, Kumar said they would withdraw their protests if they get to participate in the debate on the general budget.

Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal appeared to agree, contrasting the incremental improvement in the opposition ranks with the Telugu Desam Party pulling out its ministers from PM Narendra Modi's team.

The Bahujan Samaj Party's senior leader Satish Chandra Misra was also present at the dinner.

Considerable significance is being attached to the dinner in the midst of speculation about the political realignment that could take place ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections. A senior BSP leader though confirmed that it has approached both SP and Congress, as well as RLD, requesting them to issue a whip to vote in favour of their Rajya Sabha candidate on March 23, but no talks were held on an alliance for 2019 elections.

The tussle started on the issue of the public sector bank frauds when the second half of budget session began on 5 March.

He said opposition leaders got together to discuss issues in the national interest, create bonhomie in the opposition and exchange views.

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