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Sonia, Pawar jockey for opposition leadership | India News

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NEW DELHI: Congress functionary Sonia Gandhi will host a dinner for opposition parties on Tuesday, in what is seen as a step towards trying to forge an anti-BJP alliance ahead of the 2019 elections.

However, Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar too plans to call the opposition camp for talks this month which, the Maharashtra outfit claims, will attract a better star cast. Congress will also be invited to the discussion.

The proposed back-to-back shows by Congress and NCP give the impression of a tussle within the opposition to claim leadership of the anti-BJP camp. Reflecting the dissonance, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee recently launched consultations with regional parties to form a ‘federal front’ and even offered its leadership to Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhara Rao.

For Sonia’s dinner, all 17 opposition parties which have been attending consultations to adopt a common strategy in Parliament and outside against BJP, as last happened on February 1, have confirmed attendance. In fact, there are two additions to the group in the form of Jeetan Ram Manjhi of Bihar and Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand.

Mamata is “pre-occupied” and, according to Congress sources, had conveyed in advance that she would not be able to travel to the capital in mid-March. Party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay is likely to represent her at the meeting.

“The chief minister is slated to be on a tour of north Bengal districts as that had been scheduled much in advance,” a TMC MP told TOI.

Pawar, meanwhile, has confirmed his visit to 10, Janpath. However, NCP leaders said they were confident that Mamata would come for the meeting called by Pawar around the month-end. They are also extending an invitation to Rao of TRS.

Updated: March 12, 2018 — 8:08 pm

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