Moving forward on a united anti-Bharatiya Janata Party front for the Lok Sabha elections, top opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday agreed to work together to prepare a common minimum programme to oust the Modi government and to consider forging a pre-poll alliance.
The meeting, hosted by Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar at his residence in New Delhi, also saw Congress chief Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal coming together for the first time, while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu said the entire opposition needs to come together due to 'democratic compulsions to save India'.
Leaders indicated that the parties may contest separately in some states, but there was an urgent need to work together at the national level.]
The BJP has been calling the attempts by opposition parties to forge an alliance a desperate bid to save themselves from the Modi government's crackdown on corruption.
After the meeting, which took place hours after opposition leaders shared a dias at an AAP protest on the day of the last sitting of the present Lok Sabha, Gandhi told reporters that opposition leaders agreed to have a common minimum programme.
"We will work together to defeat the BJP," said the Congress leader, who has taken the responsibility to circulate copies of a draft common minimum programme among the opposition leaders.
While the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which are among key forces in politically-important Uttar Pradesh with its 80 Lok Sabha seats, were not present at the meeting, they have already announced an alliance between them for the national polls expected in April-May.
Congress has also already launched an aggressive campaign in the state with appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia as general secretaries with charge of eastern and western UP, respectively.
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal termed the talks as constructive and said the Opposition will work together.
The meeting also indicated that the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, who have been bitter rivals since the regional party came to power in Delhi in 2015, may forge a tie-up.
Trinamool Congress president Banerjee called the meeting 'fruitful' and asserted that 'we will do pre-poll alliance if needed'.
Opposition leaders will keep meeting in the coming days for better coordination, she said.
Earlier in the day, she had said, "Any fight with the Congress will remain in the state. At the national level, we will fight together, this I am saying from the heart... For the greater interest of the country, I am ready to sacrifice my life, my party. I am ready to sacrifice everything."
Telugu Desam Party head Naidu said there was a democratic compulsion to save India while Farooq Abdullah of the National Conferences termed the meeting 'good'.
The Opposition leaders have gathered multiple times in past one month in a show of unity.
Earlier in the day, they mounted a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, saying the two should be "ousted" in the coming elections as they are a 'threat' to democracy and constitutional values.
Banerjee emphasised the need to have coordination between all parties to 'save India' from the 'Modi-Amit Shah alliance'.
She said the opposition leaders will meet again on February 26 to discuss a common minimum programme.
"We will work together at the national level. We will forge pre-poll alliance if needed so that there is no problem," she said.
Gandhi said the principal target for all opposition parties was to fight the 'assault on the Indian institutions being carried out by Mr Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)'.
"We have all agreed that we are going to start a conversation about a common minimum programme.
"We are going to start putting together the pieces and that discussion is now beginning. We have a commitment to work together to defeat the BJP," he told reporters.
Pawar said the leaders discussed whether they can work on a common agenda and Gandhi has taken the responsibility to circulate the copies of a common minimum programme draft.
"One thing is clear that our thinking is to work together. In many states, we can contest separately. There is nothing final on this. We will meet on February 26 and give final touches to this," Pawar said.
Abdullah said all sides agreed on a 'workable common minimum programme' and to stay united.
Earlier at the AAP protest also, Banerjee had appealed to all opposition parties to play to their strengths and not cut into each others' votes. She also asked them to ensure that they get all the seats in the states they are strong in.
"Whichever party is strong should work there, fight there against the BJP, in Delhi, it's AAP, in UP, it is BSP, SP, in Kashmir, there is Farooq Abdullah...for higher good, some sacrifices are needed...If we want, we can fight in many more seats, but we never do this for the higher good," she said.