Sonia Gandhi hosts dinner for 17 Opposition leaders at 10 Janpath

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For whom the bell tolls: BJP faces challenges in the runup to 2019 elections, opposition parties even bigger ones

Leaders of 20 opposition parties tonight got together at a dinner hosted by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, where possibilities of putting up a united front to defeat the BJP in the next general elections were discussed. Political leaders including Sharad Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party's (SP) Ramgopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Satish Mishra along with other leaders attended the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi.

"Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", Gandhi said in a tweet. The dinner meet also saw other Yadav clan members like Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tejaswi Yadav and his sister Misa Bharti attend the event. "This dinner was not hosted for politics, but for amity and friendship".

He also made light of Ms. Sonia Gandhi's invite to Opposition parties for a dinner, saying her dinner politics will be only about dinner while the BJP under Mr. Modi remains a "winner" with the ruling NDA attracting more allies. The agenda of this dinner is to discuss on the amid talk of forging a broader front against the BJP-led NDA ahead of the 2019 general elections.

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Sharad Yadav of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, Mohammad Salim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), D Raja of the Communist Party of India, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Hemant Soren, All India United Democratic Front's Badruddin Ajmal, Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Jose K Mani, D Kupendra Reddy from the Janata Dal (Secular), NK Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party and Indian Union Muslim League's PK Kunhalikutty were also in attendance. "There will be unofficial discussion on how to fix accountability of the government", he said.

It is also noteworthy that Sonia Gandhi organized and hosted the dinner get-together, even after Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president in December of previous year, as it was believed that senior Opposition leaders would show more deference to her than they would to her son.

The congress leaders who attended the meeting include former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, opposition leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and another senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala. "This was meant to strengthen dialogue between the friendly parties".

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He also accused the government of running away from a debate on key issues such as banking frauds.

Seventeen opposition parties came together against the BJP-led NDA during the presidential and vice-presidential elections previous year, and Sonia Gandhi has been holding occasional meetings to nurture the bond.

The BJP on Tuesday blamed the Congress for the impasse in Parliament and dubbed it "anti-democratic", claiming that the party continues to have contempt for democracy as it had during the Emergency.

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