New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday hosted a slew of opposition leaders in state capital Kolkata in a significant show of strength ahead of the general elections later this year. Almost all the key opposition parties, barring the arch-rival Left Parties, attended the meet and jointly announced that more such gatherings would take place in the coming days.

In attendance at the Brigade Grounds in Kolkata were senior leaders of more than a dozen of key opposition parties, including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Congress’ senior leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Janata Dal (Secular) chief H D Devegowda, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal (who heads the Aam Aadmi Party) and Chandrababu Naidu (who leads the Telugu Desam Party) among others.

“So many leaders of different parties are on the dais, it is like the country has come together against the BJP. There have been many scandals during this government’s tenure. Everyone will have to come together, we have to strongly support everyone. Collective leadership is important," Banerjee said in her address.

While Naidu announced that he was planning a meeting in Amravati of all opposition parties, Kejriwal also suggested that a similar meet could be held in the national capital. Congress president Rahul Gandhi skipped the meeting but had sent a letter of support to Banerjee on Friday.

All the key opposition leaders sat together on the dais and addressed the crowd. The overall theme of their address included attacking the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over its governance record and emphasizing that the leadership question of the alliance will be taken up at a later stage.

“We have to show that coalition governments can also provide stable governments...other leaders should sit together and time is very short, just two months," Devegowda said in his address. “Senior leaders should come together and solve the problem of seat sharing," he added.

After announcing the Uttar Pradesh alliance, Saturday also marked the first time that the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) shared the stage. Other opposition parties who joined the meeting included Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, National Conference, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Rashtriya Janata Dal.

“We have to come together to defend the secular principles of the country...on one side Modi government is dividing people on the basis of religion on the other hand there are several scams in their name. To save democracy, secular principles and institutions, we must all come together," Kharge told the crowd and added that ‘whether or not our hearts meet, our hands must meet’.

The BJP termed the joint rally in Kolkata as ‘political opportunism’ and senior spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy took a jibe at rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha who was also on stage in Kolkata and addressed the crowd. “Some people make it a point to be present at the whip so that they don’t lose their membership. But otherwise they are the first to climb the stage and be present at a conclave. The party will take cognisance of it," Rudy told reporters in New Delhi.

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