New Delhi: Amid much political attention, Sharad Pawar hosted a meeting of leaders of eight Opposition parties apart from some eminent personalities at his residence here, where a decision was taken to formulate an “alternate”, “inclusive” vision for India. The Congress stayed away.
The meeting was organized by the Rashtra Manch, an anti-BJP platform including non-political supporters, led by Yashwant Sinha, the former NDA minister who is now in the Trinamool Congress. Apart from the TMC and NCP, the meeting had representation from the RLD, National Conference, Samajwadi Party, AAP, CPM and CPI.
Invites had been sent to at least five Congress leaders, the NCP said. With the five absenting themselves, Pawar, it is learnt, made it a point to stress that no “political meaning” be read into the gathering. Sources said Sinha too clarified right at the beginning that reports that the meeting was part of ‘third front’ manoeuvres were totally “unfounded”.
To a query by the CPI’s Binoy Vishwam, Pawar is learned to have said that the Congress has a role to play in the “struggle” against the present system and it will be approached.
Sources said some Congress leaders earlier associated with the Rashtra Manch were not too happy with Sinha’s decision to organize such a meeting at the residence of Pawar, with the NCP chief often talked about as the potential leader of an Opposition front. Earlier in the day at a press conference, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi refused to answer questions regarding the meeting.
The NCP’s Majeed Memon, who has been associated with the Manch since its inception, said after the meeting, “Reports that Sharad Pawar has called this gathering to rally anti-BJP political parties are unfounded. This meeting has taken place at Pawar’s residence but he has not convened this meeting. This meeting was called by Rashtra Manch leader Yashwant Sinha… Secondly, it is said that this is a big political step by Pawar and that Congress is excluded… This is also wrong. There is no discrimination or exclusion on political lines.”