Top leaders of 26 opposition parties meet to a joint agitational plan to take on the BJP


Top leaders of 26 opposition parties are expected to attend the two-day brainstorming session in Bengaluru from Monday where they are likely to start work on a common minimum programme and announce a joint agitational plan to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

According to sources, the leaders are likely to hold discussions on issuing a joint declaration and move forward on their proposal of putting up common opposition candidates in a majority of the Lok Sabha seats.

The agenda for the talks would be finalised during discussions before a dinner meeting on Monday evening, they said.

There is a proposal to set up a subcommittee for drafting a common minimum programme and communication points for the Opposition alliance for the 2024 general elections, the sources said.

Besides, the sources said, the plan is also to set up a subcommittee for chalking out the joint programme of parties that includes rallies, conventions and agitations.

A plan to discuss the process for deciding seat sharing on a state-to-state basis is also on the table. The opposition leaders may also discuss the issue of EVM and suggest reforms to the Election Commission, the sources said.

The opposition leaders also plan to suggest a name for the alliance

On the eve of the meeting hosted by it, the Congress stated that it will oppose the ordinance on Delhi administrative services in Parliament, a key condition put by the Aam Aadmi Party to attend the talks.

"Today, the Congress party cleared its position against Delhi Ordinance. We welcome the announcement. Along with this, AAP will attend the opposition meet in Bengaluru," AAP leader Raghav Chadha said.

Fifteen parties attended the last meeting for opposition unity hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on June 23. "This time we are expecting leaders of 26 parties," a source said 

Sources said the MDMK, KDMK, VCK, RSP, Forward Bloc, IUML, Kerala Congress (Joseph) and Kerala Congress (Mani) are among the political parties that will join the second opposition meeting.

Besides, the Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) of Krishna Patel and Tamil Nadu's Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) led by M H Jawahirullah are likely to join the front after an invite was sent to them too.

Congress Parliamentary party chairperson Sonia Gandhi is also likely to attend the meeting this time 

Other top leaders include Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Rahul Gandhi, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister and JDU leader Nitish Kumar, DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, JMM leader and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, besides former chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray and Lalu Prasad.

The Opposition meeting coincides with the NDA meeting convened on July 18 in Delhi, where some new allies are likely to join the ruling BJP-led coalition.

The BJP hit out at the opposition parties, alleging that they are a "divided lot" and have no specific programme other than to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi 

BJP president J P Nadda alleged that opposition parties were in the process of forming an alliance to "protect" their dynastic politics. The proposed coalition is not a "Patriotic Democratic Alliance" but a "Protection of Dynasties Alliance", he said in Jaipur.

The Opposition meeting also comes in the backdrop of the split in the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the West Bengal panchayat polls which saw widespread violence that claimed many lives with state units of the Congress and Left parties accusing the TMC government of oppression.

The sources said the opposition parties will chart out a joint agitational plan across the country against the policies of the BJP, especially after the NCP split in Maharashtra.

They said that the leaders will announce steps to further opposition unity and expose BJP's "attempts at toppling opposition governments and taking control over non-BJP-ruled states through the Governors".

"It will be a decisive meeting. Several issues will be discussed," Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said.

CPI general secretary D Raja said the two-day session will be a step further in the demonstration of the Opposition's joint resolve to defeat the BJP.

"The Bengaluru meeting will be another step forward in uniting the secular and democratic parties in order to defeat the BJP and save the nation and democracy," Raja told PTI.

Another opposition leader claimed the BJP was getting desperate over opposition unity and that is why the ruling party had convened a meeting of the NDA on the same day.

The two-day session will begin with the dinner meeting to be hosted by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and another formal meeting on Tuesday, after which they are expected to announce their further programme.

The meeting would begin on Monday at 6 pm with the address of the Congress president.

A senior leader said opposition parties would have to iron out their differences if they have to take on the might of the BJP.

The BJP alleged it was a meeting by a "fractured" Opposition and that "desperation and confusion" have gripped the Congress with its central leadership going against the state units.

"'Disunited Congress' holding fractured 'Opposition Meeting' in Bengaluru should first explain differences within Congress," BJP spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill tweeted.

"On the issue of Delhi Service Ordinance: Punjab Congress Mr Pratap Bajwa categorically said 'AAP doesn't deserve Congress Support'. Congress leader Mr Maken said 'Congress should not support AAP'.

"Today, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal says 'Congress not in favour of Ordinance-support AAP'. Political desperation and confusion grips Congress," he said.

He alleged that the Congress has become AAP's 'spare wheel'. "'Hate for PM Modi' only glue for Opposition Unity. No agenda, no ideology and no leader - Only lust for power," the BJP leader said.

BJP's IT department head Amit Malviya also said, "Delhi Congress had opposed support for AAP. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is standing up against Mamata Banerjee's murderous regime in West Bengal. But in both states, the central leadership of the Congress has struck a deal with AAP and TMC, with no gain in return."

"Congress has regularly compromised interest of its state units and reduced itself to a bunch of people running around Rahul Gandhi, to keep him relevant," he said in a tweet.

"Has Rahul Gandhi mustered the courage to speak on killings in West Bengal Panchayat polls, which saw several Congress workers murdered in cold blood? Or is he a coward, who is scared of Mamata Banerjee, and won't open his mouth, even to express solidarity with deceased Congress workers' families…," Malviya asked on Twitter

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