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Opposition line-up to take on Modi: Kapil Sibal's dinner meet sparks speculations

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Opposition line-up to take on Modi: Kapil Sibals dinner meet sparks speculations
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New Delhi: A get-together at Senior Congress leader and former union minister Kapil Sibal's residence on Monday attended by senior Congress leaders and other Opposition parties' leaders has created a buzz among political trend-watchers in the capital and elsewhere.

Monday's dinner at Sibal's residence in Teen Murti Marg was attended by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, RLD President Jayant Chaudhary, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, accompanied with his senior party leader Prof Ram Gopal Yadav, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, besides Congress leaders Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor, and Anand Sharma.

However, at the background of the meeting was a letter 23 senior Congress leaders (called G-23 later) had written to Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi a year ago, demanding radical reform in the party, and Kapil Sibal was one of the prominent signatories to the letter. Although the letter had spurred some debates about reorganisation of the party, including the diminishing role of the Gandhi family and need for a full-time president of the party, the current high command had sounded not particularly pleased about the move in public.

Although no one would publicly acknowledge a political dimension to Monday's gathering and it was purported as a birthday party of Kapil Sibal, that could not allay the speculation that it was a build-up for a wider opposition regrouping ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.

The Congress leaders present there also refrained from confessing to having any internal party discussion; most claimed it was party of strengthening opposition unity towards the 2024 general election.

While political grapevine has it that the overall feeling of those present was against the domination of Nehru family in an opposition to the BJP, Congress leaders would fain acknowledge that. However, among two prominent absentees for an Opposition conclave were Rahul Gandhi, who was on a two day tour to Srinager, and Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was one among the G-23 but whose more recent anti-Modi rhetoric has been conspicuously milder.

As for the Congress leaders alone, among G-23 leaders, there was a clamour for internal democracy with eections to be held from block-level to CWC level.

All that said, none could miss the coincidence of the dinner with completion of one year since the G-23 letter. The demands raised by the group are still unaddressed and the leaders are reported to be frustrated by the situation in which Rahul Gandhi stoutly refuses to be party president, at the same time calling the shots and Sonia Gandhi acts as the interim president.

In the meantime, the party lost crucial states of Assam, Bihar, Kerala, Puduchery – all states where the Congress had some standing of varying degrees in earlier era - plus West Bengal. In Tamil Nadu, thanks to the alliance with the DMK, which had a resounding victory, Congress was able to make some headway.

Any import ascribed to the meeting at Sibal's residence remains to be confirmed or dismissed based on possible follow-up moves by the Opposition.

(With inputs from agencies)

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