New Delhi: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee -- who has taken an initiative to stitch up a common front that will take on the BJP in the next year's general elections -- reached Delhi yesterday for a four-day visit. Her to-do list, attending a dinner by Sharad Pawar, and what she called a "personal visit" to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, is seen as another mark of the increased activity in the opposition camp that received a huge boost from the BJP's loss in a string of by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
- Sharad Pawar is hosting dinner for opposition leaders tonight
- Mamata Banerjee insisted meet with Sonia Gandhi is "strictly personal"
- She also met Telangana Chief Minister KCR earlier this month in Kolkata
Mr Pawar, the chief of the Nationalist Congress party, is hosting the dinner for opposition leaders at his home tonight.
This is expected to be the second big gathering after Sonia Gandhi's dinner last week, which was attended by leaders of 19 parties. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who was also present, later tweeted about the "political talk" and the "tremendous positive energy" of the meeting.
After the dinner, Mr Gandhi also had a one-on-one meeting with the 77-year-old NCP chief who, along with Ms Banerjee, has been one of the key interlocutors between opposition parties. Mr Pawar had called the dinner a step towards lining up the opposition on the same side at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Over the last six months, Ms Banerjee and Mr Pawar met several times. She also met Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and MK Stalin, the leader of opposition in Tamil Nadu.
Ms Banerjee is also expected to visit Sonia Gandhi tomorrow. Although the two leaders share a warm rapport, the Bengal chief minister was not been able to attend Mrs Gandhi's dinner and had to delegate a party leader instead. This time, she has emphasized that it would a "strictly personal visit". Sources close to her said she has expressed concerns about Mrs Gandhi's health. It is not known whether she will also meet Rahul Gandhi. A meeting between the two leaders was on the cards in the latter half of this month.
But not all opposition parties are interested in a broad anti-BJP platform. Earlier this month, Ms Banerjee met K Chandrasekhara Rao, the chief minister of Telangana, who is looking to build a non-Congress, non-BJP Federal Front. While KRS, as he is popularly known among supporters, was upbeat about the meeting, Mamata Banerjee said she did not "completely agree" with whatever Mr Rao said and "If something happens you will get to know".
Asked if the two leaders have taken a final call about whether the Congress would be part of that Front, Mr Rao had said, "Please do not interpret things but you know that for the past 71 years, what has been happening in the country? Do you want the same thing to continue?"