Sonia Gandhi forges Opposition unity by hosting dinner
Even as various regional parties are considering a non-BJP non-Congress alliance, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi has invited Opposition leaders for dinner to forge a united front against the BJP in Parliament. The dinner, which will be held on March 13, will strengthen the Opposition and probably lay the foundation for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Invitations have been sent to about 17 parties. Here's more.
As all the Opposition parties are attacking the government on the PNB scam involving diamond businessman Nirav Modi, Sonia is keen on using this issue for a more unified approach. This becomes particularly important after BJP's strong showing in Tripura and Nagaland polls. Sonia wants to assure parties, which have otherwise been opponents, that their interests lay in staying together.
However, leaders like TMC's Mamata Banerjee and TRS chief KC Rao have been discussing a front not involving Congress. Mamata is allegedly miffed with Congress for ignoring her in their North-East/Gujarat campaign. She spoke to TRS and DMK for coordination inside and outside the house. TMC's Derek O'Brien had said there is "good coordination" between TRS, TDP, TMC, Left, DMK, etc. on issues.
Now, Sonia is targeting parties like BJD and TMC. Though Congress's presence in Odisha and WB is diminishing, BJP is posing a strong challenge. She might be posturing Congress as a non-threatening, benevolent party to get regional parties on board and maximize the impact of non-NDA parties. Sonia shares a good rapport with opposition leaders, and with her experience, she could pull up Congress.
Before 2019 elections, Opposition is trying various permutations and combinations to bring Modi's downfall. Considering his popularity, a complete meltdown seems unlikely. However, if BJP's numbers do fall, regional parties, including allies like Shiv Sena, TDP, Akali Dal, etc. would have a say in PM candidate's selection putting Modi at a disadvantage. Conversely, Congress might need more numbers than diplomacy to make an impact.