Regional equations and traditional rivalries are on display as non-BJP parties opt to stay in or stay out of the big Opposition meeting called by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the run-up to the crucial Presidential election.
The meeting has tested opposition unity amid efforts by various leaders to put up a front to take on the ruling BJP in polls ahead, including the 2024 national election.
The Congress, which has turned Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case into a show of strength, has chosen to look beyond their animosity with the Trinamool in Bengal and agreed to join the meeting. The Left too has said they will attend the meeting.
Among those who have opted out, the most prominent is the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) led by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.
Mr Rao, who had bonded with Mamata Banerjee over their common goal of defeating the BJP, has raised strong objections to the Congress being invited. Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to be another significant absentee, sources say.
“There is no question of sharing any platform with the Congress,” said the TRS in a pungent note.
The party said the Congress had been invited despite its objections and lashed out at its leader Rahul Gandhi. It also accused the Congress of “ganging up with the BJP” in Telangana, especially in the recent bypolls.
The TRS also complained against what it called the “method of trying to put up an opposition presidential candidate”.
“Even otherwise, TRS is not in agreement with this method of trying to put up an opposition presidential candidate. In this case, the candidate was already chosen, and the candidate’s opinion was taken, after which the meeting was called. Why was it done this way?” the party fumed. TRS sources said “many important leaders” were likely to stay away from the meeting.
The presidential elections will take place on July 18 and the results will be declared on July 21.
Mamata Banerjee has invited 22 political parties to the meeting in Delhi to discuss a united fight against the BJP and its allies in the election for a new President of India. Soon after arriving in Delhi, the Bengal Chief Minister met with NCP leader Sharad Pawar at his home amid speculation that he could be the opposition’s choice for the top post.
AAP, also dropping out of the meeting, said it will “consider the matter only after the Presidential candidate is declared”.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is also not expected to show up. The party had been invited in an attempt to bring it over to the opposition’s corner.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said he was not invited. “We have not been invited and we would not have attended because Congress party has been invited,” Mr Owaisi said.
Shriromani Akali Dal has also opted out of the meeting due to the presence of the Congress, a party leader said.
The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh, will also be absent at the meeting, it is learnt.