Noting that the monsoon session was marked by determined unity of opposition parties, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday said that the ultimate goal is defeating the BJP-led government in 2024 Lok Sabha elections and called for systematic planning and working with the single-minded objective for the purpose.
New Delhi [India], August 20 : Sonia Gandhi, who chaired a meeting of 19 opposition parties, called for collectively rising to the challenge of opposition unity, saying there is no alternative to working cohesively and the time has come for rising above compulsions in the national interest.
“The ultimate goal is the 2024 Lok Sabha elections for which we have to begin to plan systematically with the single-minded objective of giving to our country a government that believes in the values of the freedom movement and in the principles and provisions of our Constitution,” she said.
“This is a challenge, but together we can and must rise to it because there is simply no alternative to working cohesively together. We all have our compulsions, but clearly, a time has come when the interests of our nation demand that we rise above them,” she added.
Sonia Gandhi expressed confidence that the opposition unity will be sustained in future sessions of parliament as well but said “the larger political battle has to be fought outside it”.
Leaders from 19 opposition parties discussed the strategy of the opposition and the roadmap for the future at the meeting held through video conferencing.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti and RJD’ Tejashwi Yadav were among those who attended the meeting.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Khadge, KC Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala also attended it.
The Congress chief said that some opposition leaders have taken up matters of public importance with the Prime Minister directly.
“I understand that Sharad Pawarji brought to his attention how the new Ministry of Cooperation, led by Home Minister himself, is blatant interference in the Constitutional rights and responsibilities of state governments. Mamata ji and Uddhav Thackeray ji emphasized the discrimination against non-BJP ruled states in vaccine supply, as have some other chief ministers,” she said.
“On behalf of Congress Party, I have also written to the Prime Minister on many occasions to highlight the need for urgent measures such as direct cash support, especially to those whose livelihoods have been badly affected,” she added.
According to sources, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that farmers have been protesting for many months against new farm laws and “this is a painful picture for a democratic country like India”.
He said the country is facing many issues today like economic slowdown, the pandemic, unemployment, border dispute, issues relating to minority communities.
Pawar said the BJP-led government has failed to address all these issues.
“Those who believe in democracy and secularism, those who want to work together to save the democratic principles of our country, they should come together, that is my call,” he said.
He said there is a need to start a time-bound programme collectively.
“I suggest that instead of tackling all these issues together, we should make a priority to solve these issues collectively,” he said.
Sources said the chief ministers told the meeting that opposition parties will have to be united. They also alleged that non-BJP state governments are being harassed.
Samajwadi Party did not attend the meeting while Bahujan Samaj Party and Aam Admi Party were not invited.
In her remarks, Sonia Gandhi said the government was to blame for the “complete washout” of the monsoon session of Parliament and accused the government of being “obstinate and arrogant” over opposition demands including probe into alleged surveillance through Pegasus spyware.
“The recent Monsoon session of Parliament was a complete washout again entirely due to the Government’s obstinate and arrogant unwillingness to discuss and debate urgent issues of public importance. These include the Pegasus snooping scandal that affects each and every citizen, the repeal of the three anti-farmer laws- the agitation of farmers that has been going on for the past nine months, the price rise of essential commodities and the continuing assault on federalism and the institutions of our democracy.
“In spite of this, the session was marked by the determined unity that all Opposition parties demonstrated for over twenty days in both the houses. We functioned in a coordinated manner with daily discussions among our floor leaders,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi said it was entirely due to the Opposition parties that the Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed to restore the long-standing rights of states to identify and notify OBCs.
“The Government had erred three years back and as you well know this Bill was required to rectify that mistake and a subsequent ruling of the Supreme Court. I am confident that this unity will be sustained in future sessions of Parliament as well. But the larger political battle has to be fought outside it,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi said even though opposition parties may not have met formally for over a year, they have been in touch with each other in other ways.
She recalled a joint letter sent by opposition parties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12 on the vaccination strategy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, on the repeal of the three anti-farmer laws and on the free distribution of food grains to the needy.
“Some crucial changes were introduced in the procurement system of vaccines following our intervention. Needless to say, as always, somebody else has taken the credit. This does not matter really, as long as the people of the country have benefitted,” she said.
She also referred to two public statements jointly on various national issues of common concern and said the joint statement of May 23 covered the COVID-19 pandemic and that on May 2 dealt with the repeal of the three anti-farmer laws and the need to resume of talks by the Government with the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.
Referring to the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, she said it is indeed “the most appropriate occasion for us to reaffirm our individual and collective resolve”.
“Let me say for its part, the Indian National Congress will not be found wanting,” she said.