Veteran Maharashtra politician Sharad Pawar met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and party chief Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday evening, amid efforts by the country’s splintered opposition to band together ahead of next year’s national elections.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief met the Congress leaders at Mr Kharge’s home in Delhi, where they were expected to discuss strategies to unify the opposition.
“I want that there should be talks with leaders of all opposition parties. Mamata Banerjee, [Arvind] Kejriwal… We should go and talk to them. We will move forward, taking everyone along, to unite the opposition,” Sharad Pawar told reporters after the meeting.
Mr Kharge said, “I am glad Sharad Pawar came to visit us from Mumbai and guide us. Yesterday, me and Rahul Gandhi had a conversation with Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav that we will keep the opposition united in the country.”
“The incidents that are happening in the country today… to save the country, to save democracy, to protect the constitution and freedom of speech… misuse of government agencies, on issues like inflation for employment of youth, we are ready to fight as one,” he added.
Rahul Gandhi said, “What Kharge ji and Pawar ji have said that this process of uniting the opposition has started. This is a beginning and all parties are committed towards this process. We are all united.”
The meeting comes a day after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav met Mr Kharge and Mr Gandhi amid talks of some opposition parties teaming up on a common platform to take on the BJP next year.
Efforts to cement opposition unity have appeared to gather pace this week, with Nitish Kumar also meeting Left veterans Sitaram Yechury and D Raja on Thursday.
The leaders are likely to take forward unity talks as more deliberations are expected in the coming days, opposition leaders have said. The Congress plans to convene a meeting of top opposition leaders very soon.
Mr Kumar left the national capital after meeting with several opposition leaders, including Aam Aadmi Party’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
After his meeting with Mr Kumar, Sitaram Yechury, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary said seat adjustments will be made at the state level and indicated that a third front – a non-BJP, non-Congress coalition – was a possibility.
“Efforts for opposition unity have picked up the pace. An opposition coalition will be formed, and seat adjustments will be done at the state level,” the Left leader said. He also said that a third front, if it materialises, will come only after the elections.
“But in India, fronts are formed post polls, such as United Front in 1996, in 1998 NDA was formed after elections, UPA formed post polls in 2004,” Mr Yechury said.
He later tweeted, “With Bihar CM Shri Nitish Kumar to carry forward the efforts to unite secular democratic parties to safeguard the Indian Republic, Constitution and democracy, severely assaulted by the BJP and Modi government. Defeat the BJP in order to save India and people’s livelihoods.”