Naidu meets Rahul, Pawar, Akhilesh to push opposition unity (Roundup)
New Delhi : Efforts to forge a broad unity among opposition parties to defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections received a boost on Thursday with TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu meeting Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the two leaders stating that opposition forces will work together to "defend India, our institutions and democracy."
Naidu, who had a joint meeting with Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah in the afternoon, said that a meeting of anti-BJP parties will be convened to evolve an action plan against the BJP-led government and a common minimum programme will also be worked out.
He met Samajwadi Party leader leader Akhilesh Yadav and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the evening.
The TDP leader's meeting with Gandhi, the first such meeting between leaders of two parties in over three decades, marked realignment of political relationships in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Gandhi alluded to the two parties having been rivals in the past and said they were "not going to get into the past" and noted that they had "a very good meeting."
"We are going to talk about the present and we are going to talk about the future because it is critical for our country. Because what is happening in the country, because of the situation in the country all opposition forces (would) get together and provide a vision to the country," he said.
"We have to defend the democracy in this country, we have to defend the institutions of this country and we have to defend the future of this country. So we are coming together, we are going to work together and all opposition forces are going to work together to defend India, our institutions and our democracy," he added.
Naidu, whose party quit the Modi government and the NDA earlier this year, said that he along with Gandhi wanted to forge a common platform "save nation, save democracy" for the opposition parties to defeat the BJP.
"We want to chalk out a programme for future to protect democracy and also the institutions. You are all watching what is happening in the country. I am in politics since last 40 years but have never witnessed this type of administration and attempt to demolish institutions like RBI, CBI, ED and Income Tax one by one."
Asked who will be the face of the opposition camp, both Gandhi and Naidu stressed that the issue will be decided later as their primary aim was to remove the BJP from power.
"We have agreed with the principle idea of defeating the BJP and to defend democracy and the institutions. All other ideas will be discussed later. Everybody is going to work together," said Gandhi.
On his part, Naidu said: "It is a reality that the Congress party is the principle opposition party and other parties are backing it. We will sit together and chalk out a programme for the future."
Gandhi also raked up the Rafale issue and said "it is very clear that corruption has taken place" and this sentiment was shared by all opposition leaders.
Naidu had visited the national capital last week and met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, BSP leader Mayawati, Loktrantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha and CPI leaders D. Raja and S. Sudhakar Reddy apart from Abdullah.
After his meeting with Pawar and Abdullah on Thursday, Naidu said the country was facing a lot of problems and the situation was "deteriorating day by day".
"We will have a meeting in Delhi and then chalk out the future (plan of action)."
He said they were not coming together out of any greed for power. Abdullah said "Democracy is in danger. People are in danger. The country was going through a great crisis", he said.
Pawar said that institutions were being attacked. "If we work collectively to save democracy, we can save the institutions", he said.
"We will call a meeting of (opposition) leaders and discuss specific programmes," he said.
The leaders said they were convenors of the proposed meeting of opposition parties.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also made efforts to bring opposition parties together against the BJP.