Less than a day after Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee gave a clarion call for "Opposition unity" from her dharna platform in Calcutta, ripples of coalescence were felt from down south in Chennai.
Sources confirmed The Telegraph Online that some 20 Opposition parties are likely to attend a meeting to deliberate on "Social Justice: The Road Ahead" on 3 April, Monday in the Tamil Nadu capital where representatives of at least two ruling parties in states with a history of maintaining close ties with the BJP – the YSR Congress from Andhra Pradesh and the Biju Janata Dal from Odisha – are scheduled to be present.
DMK leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K Stalin would be the main speaker at the event which is being organized under the banner of All India Federation for Social Justice, a DMK-backed platform which strives to achieve the principles of federalism and social justice for backward classes on a national scale.
The Opposition conflux hinted at the road map for a possible political convergence of the ideologically divergent regional forces to take on the BJP in the 2024 general elections where each party would take leads on issues pertinent to them in their respective regional spheres and try to bring the others on board. “One step at a time,” is how a Trinamul leader described the move which could, he maintained, eventually pave the way for a broader unity among the Opposition satraps without projecting any single leader for the entire conglomerate.
Although participants in Chennai would physically attend the DMK event, a significant number of Opposition leaders would join the meet from their respective locations across the country in virtual mode, it was learnt.
Besides Stalin, leaders who have already confirmed their presence include Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, Bihar deputy chief minister and RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Trinamul Congress MP Derek O’Brien, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his counterpart from CPI, D Raja, Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, TRS leader K Keshava Rao and senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, sources said.
While both YSR Congress and BJD have confirmed their presence at the event, the two parties are yet to confirm the names of their representatives, organizers said. The Congress, on its part, would also attend the programme but has still not confirmed who would represent it, sources maintained. Ditto for the Shiv Sena, IUML and the MDMK.
The move assumes significance in the wake of the fact that leaders like Mamata Banerjee have already begun the process of individually reaching out to regional leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik and HD Kumaraswamy on a one-on-one mode over the last fortnight for a possible non-BJP, non-Congress galvanization of regional forces. But Rahul Gandhi’s ouster from the Lok Sabha seems to have acted as a catalyst for the Opposition parties to fast track their convergence, political observers say.
Earlier this week, Trinamul changed its previous stand to attend a strategy meeting led by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge in Parliament, attended the party's "black" garb protest and was present at the dinner party at Kharge’s residence.
Making a clear shift from her earlier Ekla Cholo Re position, the Trinamul supremo, while on her two-day dharna against the Centre in Calcutta said on Wednesday: “The Opposition must fight together to throw the BJP away from the country and from power. The Opposition must fight to succeed and should be prepared to make sacrifices to achieve that goal. The arrogant Duhshasans must be removed to save this country, the Duryodhans must osted to save the people.”
Asked whether the Chennai meet would, henceforth, be the model for bringing the regional leaders closer, a Trinamul MP said: “I would rather call it a prototype where every regional force would take a lead on the main issue that concerns them in fighting the BJP. There would be no need to project any face as a leader of the opposition camp.”
“The Congress has shown graciousness to the other Opposition parties in the aftermath of Gandhi’s disqualification and the opposition support it garnered. There’s no reason not to reciprocate,” the MP said when asked about what led to his party’s changed stand about the Congress, indicating yet another revision of “big brother arrogance” assessment about the party.