The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Temple brings rivals to Sonia dinner table

New Delhi, Feb. 16: Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav broke bread tonight with Sonia Gandhi after a gap of four years since parting ways with the Congress on the issue of its chief’s “foreign origins”.

The move initiated by the Congress to band the anti-BJP forces together also saw other Sonia-baiters like Chandra Shekhar attending a dinner meeting at her 10, Janpath residence.

The immediate fallout of the Opposition’s solidarity was the decision to bring an adjournment motion on Ayodhya during the budget session.

Deputy Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha Shivraj Patil said a date is yet to be decided. He added that the Supreme Court hearing on the vacation of an earlier stay on the Ayodhya case would not prevent the Opposition from bringing in the motion.

“We will not be able to divulge all our strategies,” said Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy.

The “extraordinarily untenable situation in Uttar Pradesh” and the Centre’s “lack of response” on the unanimous report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the stock scam were the other issues the Opposition had set its sight on, Reddy said.

Mulayam, who has failed in his endeavour to forge an anti-BJP-BSP front in Uttar Pradesh, sounded aggressive today. “We will make strenuous efforts to corner the government,” the Samajwadi leader declared.

Reddy said Sonia, the prime mover behind the Opposition’s reunion, did not intervene much except to say she would welcome suggestions from others.

Opposition sources said the idea of the meeting was to “look beyond the immediate Parliament session for a long-term political alternative”.

Lok Jana Shakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, who quit the NDA after the Gujarat riots, reportedly suggested formalising the new-found unity as a political entity. It could be called the Secular Democratic Alliance, as a counter to the NDA, he said.

However, Congress sources fear the word “secular” might be distorted by the BJP and prove counter-productive.

The dinner meeting was also attended by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Laloo Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi leader Amar Singh.

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