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BSP, SP, RJD, NCP at Sonia lunch

February 05, 2004 14:43 IST
Last Updated: February 05, 2004 16:37 IST

Leaders of almost all major opposition parties on Wednesday attended a lunch hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, signaling their coming together for the coming general elections.

The occasion was the concluding day of the 13th Lok Sabha.

"I had called them basically to thank them because we have been working together in the last five years. This is something which we will continue [to do] during the conduct of the next elections," Gandhi said after the hour-long get-together.

Former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar and H D Deve Gowda, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Somnath Chatterjee, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Rashid Alvi were among those present at the luncheon meeting.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the new Congress ally, was represented by T R Baalu.

"We leaders of all secular parties ate our lunch sitting around one table. Our sitting around one table is an ample proof of our unity and we will defeat the BJP-led NDA," RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav said.

Somnath Chatterjee said the "good atmosphere at the sumptuous lunch" indicated that the "results will be spicy."

SP's Amar Singh thanked Gandhi for the "spirit, atmosphere and the food."

BSP's Rashid Alvi, however, refused to comment.

Congress chief spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said there was real bonhomie at the meeting and the get-together showed "definitive glimpse of the alternative secular forces."
It was a demonstration of unity of secular forces, he said but sidestepped questions whether SP-BSP and Congress can work together in the coming elections. "I cannot make comment on that. This [get-together] was not intended to discuss specific details", he said.


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