Congress plays 'Sonia Card' at Sharad Pawar's unity meet to remain prime mover against BJP

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NEW DELHI: Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma on Monday played the ‘Sonia Gandhi card’ to retrieve Congress’ patent to be the prime mover of anti-BJP opposition unity efforts, just when NCP boss Sharad Pawar positioned himself for the role by hosting two Opposition meetings in four days.

The two Congress representatives attended the unity meet at Pawar’s residence in New Delhi on Monday, where they skilfully ensured a suggestion for Sonia Gandhi presiding over a larger Opposition unity meet later this week was accepted. Congress thus advertised that even under Rahul Gandhi’s presidency, Sonia Gandhi would continue to be its political pivot for alliance making, given her larger acceptability and reach.

The fact that nominees of Trinamool Congress, DMK, SP and BSP could not attend Pawar’s meet due to their preoccupations limited the scope of structured discussion. Congress nominees assiduously used this to lob the ball back into Sonia Gandhi’s court. According to one of those present at the meeting, Azad politely told the meeting that as per Congress constitution, Sonia Gandhi remained Congress Parliamentary Party leader and in the capacity of leader of the largest Opposition party in Parliament, she would convene a meeting of anti-BJP opposition parties in Parliament to firm up unity efforts against the Modi regime and BJP. Azad and Sharma recalled Sonia’s earlier initiatives and promised to notify all about the time and venue of the next meeting (tentatively fixed for Thursday).

Incidentally, Congress decided on such a move when its senior leaders, including the Gandhis, discussed Pawar’s initiative. Earlier in the day, Pawar spoke to Rahul Gandhi in Parliament’s Central Hall and Gandhi promised to send party nominees after an in-house meeting. Apart from the usual anti-BJP menu, the agenda for the next meeting may include opposing government proposal to hike FDI limits in key areas such as defence.

Pawar’s initiatives had enthused the Opposition camp after the Congress leadership had gone dormant since the Gujarat polls and post-Rahul Gandhi coronation. Power-play of the seasoned and ambitious Pawar came as a wake-up call and a reminder to Congress of its lethargy, making it scamper to retrieve the initiative. The Pawar move coincides with Congress-NCP efforts to revive their alliance post the Sena-BJP breakup in Maharashtra. Those present at the Monday meeting included Sharad Yadav, Farooq Abdullah, D Raja, Rangarajan (CPM) and the NCP contingent of Tariq Anwar, Praful Patel, DP Tripathi and Majid Memon, apart from Pawar.

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