The opposition parties, which met today at NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar’s Delhi residence, setting the political circles abuzz with talks of a possible ‘Third Front’ to take on the BJP juggernaut ahead of the 2024 elections, denied it was a political meeting.
NCP leader Majeed Memon told ANI that the meeting discussed the roles opposition parties can play to “improve political, economic, social environment in the country”. “It was not a political programme,” he added.
The meeting, which began at 4pm, saw the presence of National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, RLD’s Jayant Choudhary, Samajwadi Party’s Ghanshyam Tiwari; AAP’s Sushil Gupta; CPI’s Binoy Viswam and CPM’s Nilotpal Basu, among others.
Congress leaders such as Manish Tewari, Kapil Sibal, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shatrughan Sinha were too invited, but none attended.
“The meeting of Rashtra Manch lasted for 2.5 hours and many issues were discussed,” ANI quoted TMC leader Yashwant Sinha as saying. Rashtra Manch is a political action group set up by Pawar in 2018.
Denying that the meeting took up any political discussions, Memon said, “This meeting was called by Rashtra Manch chief Yashwant Sinha & convened with the help of all founding members and workers of Rashtra Manch. This is being said that Sharad Pawar sahab is taking a big political step and Congress has been boycotted. This is incorrect.”
This meeting was called by Rashtra Manch chief Yashwant Sinha & convened with the help of all founding members and workers of Rashtra Manch. This is being said that Sharad Pawar sahab is taking big political step & Congress has been boycotted. This is incorrect: Majeed Memon, NCP pic.twitter.com/JFuMcHb80G— ANI (@ANI) June 22, 2021
Memon also dismissed rumours of excluding Congress from the meeting, saying that the party leaders “expressed genuine difficulties” to attend the meet.
“The perception that there is going to be a big Opposition group excluding Congress is wrong,” he added.
Need to prepare for an ‘alternate vision’
Summing up the issues taken up at the meeting, SP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari said there is a need to prepare for an “alternate vision in the country, which can address issues related to the common man”.
“Rashtra Manch has appointed Yashwant Sinha, who is the convenor, to set up a team to give a strong vision on various important issues focussing citizens of the country and organisations,” he added.
Tiwari further said that Rashtra Manch will be a ‘manch’ that will include everyone, who has vision for the country’s development.
“We also discussed how the prices of petrol and diesel are affecting, especially farmers and the middle class. Rashtra Manch will create a space where everyone can come together and voice it to the government. The next meeting will focus on including more people,” he added.
Non-political figures who attended the meeting included retired Justice AP Shah, former ambassador KC Singh and lyricist Javed Akhtar.
The talks of a possible Third Front gained traction on Monday after political strategist Prashant Kishor met Pawar in Delhi for the second time in two weeks. The meeting between the leaders sparked talks of ‘Mission 2024’, a blueprint to battle BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
However, Kishor soon dispelled the murmurs, denying his involvement in any such “overtures”. He also called the creation of a third front against BJP a “futile exercise”.