In a major step towards forging a united anti-BJP front, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and other prominent opposition leaders on Sunday called for a new alliance that includes the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, stressing that a bipolar contest will ensure the BJP’s defeat.
“If all non-BJP parties unite, which must include our friends from Congress, then we can get rid of those working to destroy the country,” Kumar said at a mega rally organised by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) here to mark former deputy prime minister Devi Lal’s birth anniversary.
The JD(U) leader, who snapped ties with the BJP last month, said there is “no question of a Third Front’’ and there should be one “main front” to trounce the BJP in the 2024 elections.
The same sentiment was echoed by other leaders including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant.
Even INLD president OP Chautala said that “they will talk to all parties including Congress to form a united front of opposition parties.”
Chautala and Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal, both with a long history of fighting the Congress, were on the stage with other senior leaders like Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Though not in as many words, Badal underlined the need for opposition parties to come together.
He asserted that the “real NDA is here on this stage not somewhere else. The founding members SAD, Shiv Sena, and JD(U) are present here. We removed the BJP from the NDA.”
The leaders attacked the BJP, accusing it of trying to create “Hindu-Muslim disturbances” to benefit politically and making false claims and promises.
Pawar spoke at length on the plight of farmers who protested against the three farm laws and said the government has still not fulfilled their demand for minimum support price (MSP).
He also talked about the government not taking back cases filed against the protesting farmers.
“The real solution to problems of farmers and unemployment can only be by bringing a change and everyone must strive for a change of the government at the Centre in 2024. All opposition parties should come together,” he said.
Speaking on similar lines, Yechury said it is time to change the manager who is ‘’mismanaging the country and creating chaos’’.
“We all should come on one platform including the Congress,” the CPM leader said. Though no one from the Congress attended the rally, Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence in the national capital after the public meeting.
Kumar later told reporters that all parties are on the same page in the fight against the BJP and talks on a concrete plan of action will be held after the election of the Congress president.
However, regional bigwigs like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who have shown an inclination towards forming a non-Congress alliance to take on the BJP in the past, stayed away from the rally, besides Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
With one leader after another pitching for a larger unity among opposition parties, JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said in his speech that the rally marked the beginning of the coming together of non-BJP parties in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. In his address, Kumar suggested that an opposition front cannot be envisaged without the Congress and the Left parties.
He urged leaders on the dais, including some with a strong anti-Congress history, to work for a larger unity and said this “main front of opposition” will ensure that the saffron party loses badly in the 2024 general elections.
There is no real Hindu-Muslim conflict in society, Nitish Kumar said in his address, adding that some mischief-makers are present everywhere.
A large number of Muslims chose to remain in India after the Partition in 1947, he added.
RJD leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav alleged that the BJP does not want real issues such as price rise and unemployment to be discussed and instead harps on topics like “Musalmaan, Pakistan, mandir and masjid”.
He said the JD(U), SAD and the Shiv Sena left the BJP-led NDA to save the Constitution and democracy.
Where is the NDA now, he asked.
He accused the BJP of making false claims and promises and dubbed it as “Badka Jhuta Party” (big lying party).
The RJD leader called for fighting the BJP, saying those who will be scared of it will be finished while those who take it on will win.
Yadav said the BJP wants everyone except those aligned to it and the RSS to be finished and lauded farmers of Haryana and Punjab, saying they taught the party a lesson, a reference to their protests against the now-repealed farm laws.
The BJP government is selling out all public firms and wanted to sell off farmers’ land as well, he alleged and also attacked it for the ‘Agniveer’ scheme, a short-term recruitment programme in the armed forces.
While leaving the rally venue, Kumar told reporters he was not a contender for the prime minister’s post.
No real work is happening under the BJP government at the Centre, he alleged, accusing it of imposing its control over different institutions, including the media, to peddle a “one-sided” narrative.
Seven parties are together in Bihar and the BJP is all alone, the Janata Dal (United) leader said, adding that the BJP can’t win in the elections.
The rally was organised by INLD to mark the 109th anniversary of its founder Devi Lal.
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is fighting for survival in Haryana following a split after its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala’s elder son Ajay Chautala formed Jannayak Janata Party, a BJP ally.
The JJP had managed to secure most of the traditional INLD votes in the last assembly polls.
Lalu, Nitish meet Sonia; say focus on uniting opposition parties to defeat BJP in 2024
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav met Congress president Sonia Gandhi here on Sunday and later asserted that there was a broad agreement over taking on the BJP unitedly in 2024 but a concrete plan would be formulated only after a new Congress chief is elected.
The meeting at Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence was seen as very crucial in forging an Opposition unity with efforts on to reconcile differences between the Congress and some regional parties that have been at loggerheads traditionally.
This was Kumar’s first meeting with Gandhi since he severed ties with the BJP and joined hands with the RJD and the Congress to form the government in Bihar in August. Notably, the three leaders were meeting together after over five years. This was also Lalu Prasad’s first active political engagement in a long time. He has been ailing for some time now.
Speaking with reporters after meeting Gandhi, Kumar said they held talks with the Congress president as it was their view that Opposition parties should come together and work for the progress of the country in the future. “We held talks on these matters… But there are presidential elections in the Congress and only after that she (Sonia Gandhi) can say something,” he said.
He said there was broad agreement on an Opposition unity to take on the BJP but a concrete plan of action could be formulated only after Congress president polls.
“We will hold further talks after the Congress organisational elections,” he said. Echoing similar views, Lalu Prasad said, “We have to remove the BJP and save the country. For that, we all have to come together in the same manner as we have done in Bihar and dislodged the BJP from there, the response to that is being seen in the whole country.”
“We all are united. We told Sonia Ji that Congress is the biggest party and all should be called and talks held and bid adieu to them (BJP) in 2024,” he said.
Lalu Prasad said Sonia Gandhi has told them that AICC president elections are going to take place and then they will meet again after the polls when all can sit together along with the new Congress president.
“There is agreement, the Congress has always been opposed to the BJP. The country is going towards dictatorship. There is poverty, unemployment, no work was done and opposition leaders thrown in jails but we will not be scared. We have spoken and will meet her again,” the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader said.
The nomination process for the election to the Congress president’s post is underway and the polling, if needed, is scheduled for October 17. The results of the polls will be out on October 19.
Earlier in the day, Kumar called for uniting all opposition parties, including the Congress and the Left, to take on the BJP and said this “main front of opposition” will ensure that the saffron party loses badly in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
If all non-BJP parties unite, then they can get rid of those who are working to destroy the country, Kumar said at a rally organised by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana to mark former deputy prime minister Devi Lal’s birth anniversary.
INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal, both with a long history of fighting the Congress, were on the stage with other senior leaders such as NCP’s Sharad Pawar, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was also on the stage in what was seen as a step towards unity among non-BJP parties.
However, no one from the Congress attended the rally.