With general elections knocking on the doors and Opposition unity remaining elusive, the Congress is leaning towards its former president Sonia Gandhi to keep potential allies in good humour. Mrs Gandhi, who has been famously called the “glue that binds the Opposition”, will host a meeting of Opposition parties in the capital on December 10 as well as represent the Congress at the unveiling of DMK founder M. Karunanidhi’s statue in Chennai on December 16.
As UPA chairperson, Mrs Gandhi has many times used her personal rapport to win over allies, like she did by sealing a pre-poll pact with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party in 2003 by just walking into his bunglow one morning.
A senior Congress leader said that the UPA chairperson is again trying to use her personal rapport with leaders, including those in the Karunanidhi family, to get a strong Opposition grouping going.
And it seems that the results are beginning to show. M.K. Stalin the current DMK chief will attend the December 10 Opposition party meeting which the Congress is “anchoring”.
Last week, Mrs Gandhi held a rally in Telangana, a state whose creation involved her efforts, where her party is fighting the polls in alliance with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
TDP sources told this newspaper that the December 10 meeting is being coordinated by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and the “who’s who” of Opposition leadership is expected to attend.
Top leaders like Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal are also expected to be present at the meeting, sources said.
Union minister and chief of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) Upendra Kushwaha, who has made clear his intentions of leaving the NDA, might also attend the meeting, sources said.
It might be recalled that many senior leaders like Ms Banerjee have expressed reservations over forming any Opposition grouping led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Consequently, at earlier such meetings, which had been called by the Congress president, the parties sent junior representatives.
The December 10 meeting is being held after a similar initiative by Mr Naidu to hold a meeting of all Opposition parties on November 22 failed. While most parties had sited Assembly elections as the reason for not attending the meet, sources said the problem was deeper as many of these parties were fighting each other in states.