New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi hosted a lunch for the leaders of the opposition parties in the capital today where several arch-rivals put up a united face. On the menu was the upcoming Presidential election. Leaders of 16 parties discussed the possibility of fielding a joint candidate for President to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's nominee.
The meeting is seen as a show of strength by the opposition parties on the day that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government completes three years in office.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told reporters after the lunch that no name of a candidate was discussed during the meeting. "There will be a committee to find a consensus candidate... If there is a secular candidate, we can come together," she said.
Among others who attended Mrs Gandhi's lunch are Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, DMK's Kanimozhi, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, who is himself a possible contender for the top constitutional post.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, however, was not invited as his party has so far not taken part in any joint opposition programme.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh, other senior Congress leaders like Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and AK Antony were also there.
Mrs Gandhi personally called up opposition leaders and invited them for today's lunch in parliament library.
A day before the luncheon, Ms Banerjee met PM Modi on Thursday. The West Bengal Chief Minister said she did not discuss the topic of the Presidential candidate with the Prime Minister.
Sources said the opposition is unlikely to decide on a candidate for President just yet. Most of them will also meet after a week in Chennai, for DMK chief M Karunanidhi's birthday celebrations. They are also expected to wait and watch who the BJP picks as its candidate.