Meeting of 19 opposition parties calls for stir from September 20 | India News

Meeting of 19 opposition parties calls for stir from September 20 | India News

NEW DELHI: Accusing the government of ignoring people’s issues and plunging the economy into a spiral, the opposition parties on Friday announced joint protests across states in September with Congress president Sonia Gandhi urging the parties to start preparing for the 2024 elections.
Sonia said the opposition must work for an alternative to unveil a government based on “values of the freedom struggle and the Constitution”. She urged the parties to rise above “compulsions” and work together while other leaders like West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said the issue of leadership need not be addressed at present.
The protests, to be held between September 20 and 30, will be a joint show of 19 parties that attended a virtual meeting called by Sonia Gandhi.
The move is a clear bid to translate the coordination established at the leadership level in recent months and cemented during the just-concluded Parliament session, into a grassroots alliance.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said “opposition unity” was not enough and the alliance needed to present an “alternative vision” of what it stands for since the vision offered by the RSS-BJP is being liked by people. While CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said “the opposition is united by the Constitution of India”, Rahul argued it needed to be fleshed out in people’s language that they could relate to and understand why it was important for the country.
For the fledgling axis, the planned protests require Trinamool Congress and Left coming together in West Bengal, Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka, SP, RLD and Congress in UP – an early test to the experiment being put in motion.
The deliberations attended by TMC, DMK, NCP, Shiv Sena, JMM, CPI, CPM, RJD, JD(S), RLD, NC and PDP, among others, emphasised unity in a joint statement issued after the meeting. Sonia noted that the Parliament session exhibited cohesion among parties, which will be sustained in future.
The alliance said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had sent a letter saying he could not attend the meeting because he was travelling, but expressed his agreement with the statement issued.
The tricky subject of leadership of the opposition also came up for mention. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said the opposition should not dwell on the leadership issue and that “people will lead”. She said all anti-BJP parties should be roped in, including those which are at odds with Congress. “Fight is against BJP. Let us set up a core group and work together,” she said, in what appeared an allusion to outfits like BJD, TRS, AAP and YSRCP. “Let us keep our personal interests aside,” she remarked.
Interestingly, sources said the TMC leader appeared annoyed when she asked who drafted the joint statement circulated to the participants, and was informed that the author was CPM chief Sitaram Yechury.
All the chief ministers – M K Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray, Hemant Soren and Banerjee – spoke about governing BJP disturbing non-BJP state governments. Soren said there was a need to jointly push back when it happens, and that delayed statements of support were of no help.
RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary said meetings were not enough and immediate action plans should be spelt out.
Praising the unity during the Parliament session, Sonia said, “But the larger political battle has to be fought outside it. Of course, the ultimate goal is the 2024 Lok Sabha elections for which we have to begin to plan systematically with the single-minded objective of giving to our country a government that believes in the values of the freedom movement and in the principles of our Constitution.”
In the joint statement, the opposition blamed the government for “arrogant unwillingness” to discuss urgent issues like Pegasus snooping scandal, repeal of farm laws, inflation and fuel hike, which stalled the Parliament session. They said Pegasus was rampant in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address was recycled from earlier ones that did not touch upon people’s issues, which was an “ominous warning” that people’s ruin will continue. It noted that the economy had been run to the ground which has led to joblessness and inflation, while poor vaccination level was threatening a third wave of pandemic.
In an 11-point charter of demands to the Modi government, the opposition sought release of all political prisoners, including those linked to Elgar Parishad and anti-CAA protests, and in J&K. It sought full statehood for J&K and early free & fair elections there.
It also sought a Supreme Court-monitored judicial inquiry into Pegasus and a high-level probe into the Rafale deal.
The opposition demanded that the government augment vaccine production, cash transfers of Rs 7,500 per month to families outside the income tax bracket, daily food kits to the needy, withdrawal of central excise duties on petroleum products, repeal of farm laws, stoppage of unbridled privatisation, stimulus to MSMEs, 200 days’ work under MGNREGA and introduction of a similar urban scheme.

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