Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi held a virtual meeting on Friday evening with leaders of 19 Opposition parties, including the chief ministers of some Opposition-ruled states, amid efforts to boost Opposition unity and evolve a common strategy against the National Democratic Alliance government.
While 19 parties participated in the meeting, leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party chose to skip it.
The monsoon session of Parliament was a complete washout again, entirely due to the government's obstinate and arrogant unwillingness to discuss and debate urgent issues of public importance, Gandhi told the meeting.
These issues include the Pegasus scandal that affected each and every citizen, repeal of the three anti-farmer laws the agitation over which has been going on for past nine months, price rise of essential commodities, and assault on federalism and the institutions of our democracy, Sonia Gandhi said during the meeting.
The ultimate goal is the 2024 Lok Sabha polls for which we've to begin to plan systematically with the single-minded objective of giving to our country a government that believes in the values of the freedom movement and in the principles and provisions of our Constitution, she said.
"This is a challenge, but together we can and must rise to it because there is simply no alternative to working cohesively together. We all have our compulsions, but clearly, a time has come when the interests of our nation demand that we rise above them," the Congress interim chief told the meeting.
The meeting was part of the Congress leadership's efforts to unite various Opposition parties on key issues before the country, including the upcoming assembly elections in some states.
A total of 19 parties are participating in the meeting: The Congress, TMC, NCP, DMK, Shiv Sena, JMM, Communist Party of India, CPI-M, National Conference, Rashtriya Janata Dal, All India United Democratic Front, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Janata Dal-Secular, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress-Mani, People's Democratic Party and the Indian Union Muslim League.
Among the leaders participating in the meeting are the National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's MK Stalin, Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Hemant Soren, Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray, Nationalist Congress Party's Sharad Pawar, Loktantrik Janata Dal's Sharad Yadav Communist Party of India-Marxist's Sitaram Yechury.
Former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi are also participating in the Opposition leaders' meeting with Sonia Gandhi.