- Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar was there on the front row
- JD (S) says HD Deve Gowda was invited in the capacity of former PM
- Congress said opposition unity will remain intact in 2019 Lok Sabha polls
Just days after a lunch hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to consolidate the opposition ranks, their presence at an event that had been boycotted by several opposition parties led by the Congress laid bare the cracks. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had been the only one to skip the lunch where 17 parties decided to field a common presidential candidate against the ruling NDA nominee for the July 17 presidential election.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Left, the DMK, the NC and the RJD and few other smaller parties did skip the event. While Mamata Banerjee called GST an "epic blunder", Congress leader Anand Sharma insists the country was "ill-prepared for the GST" and that it is neither a "one-nation one-tax" nor "a perfect bill".
"We agree with the Congress to an extent, but we supported the legislation when it was introduced (in Parliament and state assemblies)," he said.
According to new agency PTI, a senior Congress leader had reached out to the Janata Dal (S) also to join the boycott and asked Mr Deve Gowda to give the event a miss. But JD (S) general secretary Danish Ali said Mr Gowda had been invited in the capacity of former prime minister and the party accepted the invite. The JD (S) also criticised the Congress for not consulting it before taking the decision to shun the event.
The BSP, which stood with opposition unity, was represented by two of their lawmakers. The SP, which had initially announced the boycott, did a somersault by attending the event, saying it found no problem when the party had supported the GST bill in Parliament.
"When we supported the bill in Parliament, why would we not attend this function to launch GST? Both the BJP and the Congress had also supported the passage of the bill," said SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav.
"It is the right political culture where the government takes along the opposition, supporting it on important landmark events in the history of Indian polity," Mr Yadav said.
JD (U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had spurned the boycott call from the Congress, didn't eventually make it to Central Hall. But he deputed the state's energy minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav to stand in for him.
The Congress, however, downplayed the fissures within the opposition, terming it as a "one-off" development. A senior Congress leader claimed that the opposition unity will remain intact during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
(With inputs from PTI)