New Delhi: Cracks emerged in the opposition on the last day of the monsoon session as the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) skipped a joint meeting on Friday.
This is the second major opposition party, after Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), which has distanced itself from a united opposition.
The meeting, attended by at least 16 opposition parties, was chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
It decided to form a sub-group that would come up with a blueprint for a joint opposition strategy before the winter session of Parliament begins later this year.
NCP was, however, conspicuous by its absence, especially in the backdrop of the just concluded Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat on Tuesday where it was at logger heads with the Congress party over support to senior leader Ahmed Patel.
According to news agency ANI, senior NCP leader Praful Patel confirmed that the party had boycotted the opposition meeting called by Congress.
When asked about the absence of NCP at the meeting, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters he had personally spoken to Pawar, who in turn informed him that he was unwell and was therefore skipping the meeting.
Meanwhile, Azad said the joint meetings of the opposition parties have helped in better floor coordination which was lacking earlier.
“This year this was the fourth meeting of like minded opposition parties. Sonia Gandhi has chaired all these meetings…Today’s agenda for the meeting was to thank presidential and vice presidential candidate of the joint opposition which is Meira Kumar and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. It was in meetings like these where these two were chosen as unanimous candidates. We also thanked MPs and MLAs who voted for them," Azad told reporters.
To bolster its joint parliamentary strategy, the opposition has decided to come up with a small group which will coordinate with all the opposition leaders, discuss issues and come up with a plan of what should be raised in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.
When asked if opposition parties are going to attend the rally called by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on 27 August in Patna, Azad said that there was a discussion on it and all the opposition leaders who are keen on attending it will be doing so.
The opposition parties also extended an invitation to senior JDU leader Sharad Yadav for the meeting on Friday. He was represented by Rajya Sabha member Ali Anwar. Speaking about Yadav and his disagreements over Kumar’s decision to join the NDA, Kumar, who was in New Delhi on Friday, said that the decision was a joint one taken by his party and Yadav was free to hold any opinion he wanted to.