Sort out Delhi ordinance issue over tea, biscuits: Mamata to AAP, Cong

Kejriwal said for the 2024 elections, the motto should be "nation first, party second."

New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday asked the AAP and the Congress to sort out their differences on the Delhi ordinance issue over tea and biscuits at a later date, reminding them that the Patna opposition meeting was not the ideal forum for such discussion, sources said.

They said Banerjee, herself on a day-long fast, was keen that the bickering over the ordinance does not derail the discussions and intervened in the matter when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal insisted that the Congress make an announcement at the end of the meeting that it will support AAP on the issue.

During the meeting, Congress chairperson Mallikarjun Kharge in his speech gave an in-principle support to the AAP on the issue saying the party will not back anything that is unconstitutional, the sources said.

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He said his party has a set mechanism for taking up issues and the announcement on it will be done at a later date, according to the sources.

At no point did Kejriwal threaten to walk out of the meeting, they added.

The sources also said that all the opposition party members in attendance sided with the Congress and stated that the party’s line on the issue was a “reasonable” one.

Rahul Gandhi during his speech did not raise the ordinance issue, they said, adding he asserted he was attending the meeting with a clean slate “without any memory of past likes or dislikes with any of the parties in attendance”.

He also said he and his party would do anything to keep the opposition together. Gandhi suggested that the Opposition would have to break the financial, institutional and constitutional monopoly of the BJP to defeat them.

“Incidentally, the West Bengal chief minister was sitting almost equidistant from Kejriwal and Gandhi. When the issue became heated, she intervened and asked them to have tea and biscuits. She said a lot of things can be resolved over a good cup of tea and biscuits,” said the source.

During her address at the meeting, Banerjee said it was important for all parties to ensure support for the Congress wherever the party was the strongest. She said the BJP will be fighting not the opposition but the people of India.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad was given a rousing welcome by the opposition party leaders as he started his speech as the second speaker.

He suggested that for the 2024 general elections, the opposition fight should be led by the biggest party in each state. Requesting the Congress to be large-hearted, he appreciated the party’s gesture to speak last after hearing everyone else.

Host and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was the first to speak, said while 15 opposition parties were in attendance, at least 10 more will be joining the ranks soon.

Kejriwal said for the 2024 elections, the motto should be “nation first, party second.”

He said when parties give up seats for their opposition partners, their victory should be victory for the united front. He also said this was no time for expansion for parties and the focus should not just be the election, but agreement of issues.

Referring to alliances to be formed by the opposition, DMK’s MK Stalin said every state will have a different pattern of understanding between the parties, a view seconded by NC leader Omar Abdullah who also said while one-to-one battles with the BJP may not be possible on all seats, different ways of seat sharing options can be worked out.

The opposition parties all agreed that they will not have a prime ministerial face as of now.

Both Shiv Sena’s (UBT) Uddhav Thackeray and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav outlined the spirit of the Opposition parties as they saw it, during their addresses.

While Thackeray referred to the Opposition as “deshpremi” (patriots) and “prajatantra premi” (lovers of democracy), Yadav said in Hindi, “To create a big forum, you need a big heart.”

The JMM suggested that the Opposition should not just focus on the 2024 polls, but also on the five upcoming assembly elections. CPIM’s Sitaram Yechury also asked the leaders to issues related to hardships being felt by the people.

The sources said that all the leaders agreed that the Opposition parties now must corner the government on Manipur and expressed fear that the state could “turn into another Jammu and Kashmir”.

The next Opposition meeting will be held in the second week of July in Shimla, followed by another in one of the southern states, the sources said.

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