No talks on PM face, Opposition meet to focus on finalising common agenda

New Delhi: The upcoming Opposition meet in Patna scheduled for next week will not discuss a possible prime ministerial candidate and will focus on deciding the common agenda for the parties to work on in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Sources from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which along with Bihar’s ruling alliance partner Janata Dal-United (JD-U) is playing host to the meet to be held in state capital Patna, said there are no talks on the lines of picking a prime ministerial candidate.

“The meeting is the first step. A common agenda will be finalised,” said an RJD leader who did not want to be named.

“Inflation and unemployment are issues which affect everyone, drawing people’s attention to the fact that it is government’s economic mismanagement, a result of bad decisions like demonetisation and faulty GST, is an important issue. Apart from this, communal harmony, misuse of government agencies and subversion of democracy are important issues,” the source said.

The issue of caste-based census, which has found support even from BJP leaders in Bihar, is also set to be on the agenda, and the opposition parties are hopeful of garnering larger support over the issue at a national level.

According to the sources, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar is likely to present a common minimum programme.

However, there will be no talk about a prime ministerial candidate, said the source.

“There will be no discussion on any prime ministerial candidate, that is not the aim of the meeting. The meeting is for coordination among the Opposition for the next general election, this will be the first step,” the source said.

A leader from another opposition party said that they are likely to discuss the formation of a team of senior leaders who will go to different states, talk to leaders as well as hold meetings and conferences to mobilise support for the Opposition.

While a formal alliance between the opposition parties is unlikely, the idea is to work on a formula of having one winnable Opposition candidate in all seats.

Among those who have consented to attend the meet are Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, former chief minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, CPI general secretary D. Raja, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya are the other leaders who have agreed to be part of the meeting.

Telangana-based Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are among those who are skipping the meet due to differences with the Congress.