UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday hosted a dinner for Opposition leaders at her New Delhi residence in 10 Janpath, as the Congress moves ahead ambitiously to form a united alliance to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)-led NDA in 2019 General Elections.
Apart from Sonia, the Congress was represented by party president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, and other senior leaders including AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Leaders of 19 parties made it to the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi that was seen to be aimed at consolidating opposition unity in parliament and beyond, particularly the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"At a time when the government is trying to create walls", he said, "we are making way to travel together by forging friendships and bringing harmony". According to sources, leaders of Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers in the Modi government but continues to be a constituent of the NDA, the BJD, and the TRS were not invited.
"This dinner was not hosted for politics, but for amity and friendship".
Rahul took to Twitter and wrote: "Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji". Sonia has consistently been pushing for broader Opposition unity, urging political parties to set aside their local differences and get together in the larger national interest to keep the BJP out of power in 2019.More news: Google Assistant updated with iPad support
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said Gandhi's dinner politics will be only about dinner as the BJP, under Modi, remains a victor with ruling NDA attracting more allies. "An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally", Rahul Gandhi tweeted after the dinner.
He also accused the government of running away from debate on key issues such as banking frauds. "The intention is not political, but to hold discussions in family-like setting at a time when the nation is confronted with a number of issues and thousands of crores being taken out of the country", Surjewala told reporters after the dinner.
The government has no plans to curtail the ongoing Budget Session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said here on Tuesday even as he launched a strident attack on the Congress for disruptions in both the Houses of Parliament.
Those conspicuous by their absence included Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal C M Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
It is also noteworthy that Sonia Gandhi took the lead for the get together of the leaders even after Rahul Gandhi has taken over as the Congress President in December previous year with the feeling in the Opposition that senior leaders would show deference to her more than to her son.