In a development that revealed further chinks in the opposition, the NCP boycotted an opposition meeting called by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday, but there was some solace as rebel JD-U member Ali Anwar Ansari, close to Sharad Yadav, was present.At the meeting, the opposition agreed to carry forward their coordination against the Narendra Modi government beyond what was seen at the recently-concluded presidential and vice-presidential elections and Parliament's Monsoon Session, which ended Friday.It was also decided to set constitute a small coordination committee to discuss future strategy against NDA government. 16 out of 18 parties, which were invited, attended the meeting.Former Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav, who is visiting Bihar, was invited for the meeting but he deputed Ansari since he could not attend. Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attended the meeting, as did CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.
Yechury, who left early, said there was a need to create an "alternate narrative in which people's issues are central".The NCP's staying away from the meeting comes after two of its MLAs in Gujarat are believed to have voted for BJP in the Rajya Sabha election on Tuesday.NCP leader Praful Patel said his party was boycotting the meeting called by Congress."We are not the B-team of the Congress. We are not in alliance with the Congress anywhere, still we supported them in Gujarat, but their spokesperson in Gujarat kept blaming us."If Congress is attacking NCP, despite the support extended in Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, we see no point of attending the meeting," he told the media. The meeting thanked opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar and vice-presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi for accepting their request to contest despite knowing that the result was likely to be unfavourable. "We also thanked all the MLAs and MPs who voted for them," said Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.The opposition parties had come together to put up an "ideological fight" against the Modi government in the presidential and vice-presidential election, but the fledgling issue-based unity suffered a setback after JD-U President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to dump RJD and Congress and join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Azad said the parties had raised issues in Parliament in a coordinated manner and floor management has improved. "We raised all issues pertaining to farmers, unemployment, atrocities on Dalits and minorities," he said."A small coordination committee will be formed of opposition leaders to decide the future programmes," he said.He said the Congress President will form the committee and it has been left to her to decide how many members will be there.Asked about NCP's absence, Azad said party supremo Sharad Pawar is not well and could not come. "When I spoke personally to Sharadji, why should I believe in sources," he said referring to Patel's remarks.Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leader A.K. Antony and CPI leader D. Raja were among those present.Kerala Congress could not attend the meeting because of a party function in the state.Asked about meeting called by RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Aug 27 in Patna, Azad said: "This was discussed and it was decided that those who want to attend the meeting, can do so."