With ‘united we stand’ slogan, leaders of 26 Opposition parties arrive in Bengaluru to chalk out 2024 strategy

As AICC former presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, TN chief minister MK Stalin arrived for joint meeting of opposition, BJP deemed it "single-point agenda to defeat Modi".

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jul 17, 2023 | 5:15 PMUpdatedJul 17, 2023 | 8:44 PM

Karnataka Opposition Congress 2024 Lok Sabha elections

“United We Stand” reads the slogan used in every cutout, poster, canvas, and banner put up across Bengaluru with photos of key non-BJP Opposition-party leaders.

Bengaluru is hosting the two-day high-profile unity meeting of Opposition parties beginning Monday, 17 July.

The Congress has succeeded in rallying 26 political parties, including the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Bengaluru meeting is the second after a 17-party dialogue held in Patna in Bihar on 23 June.

AICC former presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, TMC chief, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Aravind Kejriwal, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, and other leaders are expected to arrive in Bengaluru by Monday evening.

AICC general secretary and in charge of communications Jairam Ramesh told reporters that the deliberations will begin at 11 am on Tuesday, 18 July.

On Monday, Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah is hosting a dinner for all the leaders arriving for the opposition meet.

The joint opposition meeting comes at a time several opposition parties are firefighting party and governance issues. While NCP is dealing with rebellion from within, the AAP is in a tussle with the union government on an ordinance that seeks to wrest away control. While TMC government in West Bengal is under fire for poll-related violence in the recently held local body elections, the DMK in Tamil Nadu is facing ED raid against another of its minister.

Related: As Opposition schalk out alliance roadmap, BJP cites ‘fear of PM Modi’

“Country in distress”

Setting the tone for the meeting, AICC general secretary (organisation) and Rajya Sabha member KC Venugopal said, “We (opposition) are here not only for attaining power but also to address the genuine concerns of the biggest democratic country of the world.”

“This is shocking that the people of the country are in great distress, especially common people, due to unemployment and price rise. There is no concrete message to address the concern of the common people of the country,” he told reporters.

After a successful meeting in Patna, the opposition parties will be convening in Bengaluru to continue our discussions to jointly take on the BJP Government on a nationwide scale. Our common goal is to protect democracy and address the most pressing issues faced by the common…

The leader from Kerala said the people are aware of the reality and they will teach the BJP a lesson when the time comes. He said the Union government has failed in governance and is cheating the people by making false promises.

“We are confident that the people will decide,” he said.

Terming the Narendra Modi-led Union government a ‘dictatorial government’, Venugopal said, “A total of 26 opposition political parties are here to move forward unitedly to give a solution for the common people’s issues and address the genuine concern of this dictatorial government actions”.

“We will hold talks on the future course of action. Second, the Parliament session is also starting on 20 July. We will also chalk out parliamentary strategy,” he elaborated

“Certainly, we are confident that this is going to be a game-changer in the Indian political scenario. We are happy to see that after the Patna meeting, those who are saying that we (referring to BJP) are very much comfortable alone to defeat the entire Opposition have also started holding meetings. This is the real success of the Opposition meeting,” Venugopal took a dig at the BJP convening a meeting of National Democratic Alliances (NDA) constituents in Delhi on Tuesday, 18 July.

Also read: ‘Opposition can challenge Modi in 2024 polls if it stays united’

BJP wants to silence the Opposition 

Venugopal further alleged that the Constitutional rights and every institution in the country are under attack. “They want to silence the Opposition. They are misusing agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to suppress the voice of Opposition. The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Parliament is the biggest example,” he opined.

“Maharashtra is also one of the examples. They want to destabilise democratically-elected government by misusing these agencies,” he pointed at the BJP grabbing power in Maharashtra.

Lashing out at the prime minister for not controlling the Manipur violence, said that state has been burning for the past 75 days. “The Union government has not taken even a concrete initiative to resolve the problems the northeastern state.”

“The prime minister’s silence on the matter is shocking. The entire country is waiting for his response. But he has not uttered even a single word on the Manipur issue. He had not even issued a peace call,” Venugopal questioned Modi’s silence.

When asked about the agenda of the meeting, he said: “There are 26 political parties. It is not a one-party alliance. We are trying to have unity in various issues.”

“Whatever issues are coming before use, we will discuss, we will resolve all the issues in one or two weeks,” he said.

Venugopal, however, said he cannot make public all the issues that will be discussed, since “it is not only the Congress but 25 other political parties are also taking part. All the opposition parties will sit together and decide unitedly,” he added.

However, he said the meeting will discuss poll alliance.

On the leader of the possible alliance, he said: “We have enough leaders including those who have proved themselves in different capacities. There is no necessity to worry about leadership at the moment. Instead, one must worry about the country’s current situation and issues.”

Also read: Day of protests: Congress solidarity with Rahul Gandhi; BJP fumes over murder of Jain monk

NDA has become a ghost: Ramesh

Taking a swipe at the BJP, Ramesh said those who used to talk about defeating the Opposition parties alone are now making attempts to breathe new life into the NDA, which has become a “ghost”.

“Prime Minister Modi has suddenly remembered the NDA. Attempts are being made to breathe new life into the NDA,” he told reporters.

“There used to be no talk about the NDA and suddenly we have been hearing and reading about it. Suddenly, it was reported that an NDA meeting has been called for tomorrow,” he said,

“So, attempts are now being made to breathe a new life into it. This is a result of the meeting in Patna,” he added.

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who also heads the state party affairs, was present with the leaders.

Also read: BJP hints at alliance talks with JD(S) ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Sharad Pawar to attend

AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge said he had spoken to NCP chief Sharad Pawar. “He will participate in the Opposition meeting in Bengaluru on 18 July.”

Responding to reports that Pawar would skip the meeting on Monday and attend it only on Tuesday, Ramesh said the official meeting is on Tuesday and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is only hosting a dinner on Monday.

Asked about Pawar, Kharge, said: “He said the (Maharashtra) Assembly is starting there today and he would like to be there (Mumbai). But he will be present for the meeting tomorrow.”

“He said he is coming on 18 July morning. There is no concern about that,” Kharge confirmed.

“Everyone is coming. Mamataji, Kejriwalji, Nitishji, Tejashwiji, Stalinji — all leaders are coming. In fact, more people are aligning with us than those present at the Patna meeting,” the Congress president said.

BJP mocks ‘single-point agenda’

BJP leaders in Karnataka meanwhile mocked the joint meeting as nothing but a futile attempt.

“The opposition parties have no concern for the country’s development. All they are interested in is to come back to power by whatever means. Their single point agenda is to ensure Narendra Modi does not return as Prime Minister for the third time. Their efforts are futile. No power can stop Modi from returning as PM again,” said BY Vijayendra, BJP MLA and party strongman BS Yediyurappa’s son speaking to reporters on Monday.

(With PTI inputs)