Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi's presence at the meeting of the opposition parties in Bengaluru is expected to add to her party's heft and help it in its efforts to underline its role and importance in the opposition unity project.
The Congress has so far made a conscious effort to underplay the fact that it is the largest opposition party and preferred that other leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, take the lead in reaching out to other parties. However, Bengaluru provides the party with an opportunity to emphasise upon the significance of the party in the opposition parties coming together to mount a joint fight in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Karnataka is a state which the Congress has recently wrested back from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), scoring a decisive victory against the saffron party. The assembly election win has come as a much needed morale booster for the Congress, bringing a spring to its step and the new-found confidence is visible in the manner in which the party has jumped straightaway into preparing for the next round of Assembly elections as also the Lok Sabha polls. So for the party to host the opposition meeting in Bengaluru sends out a message to the BJP.
It is significant in this backdrop that Sonia, who has scaled down her political engagements drastically in recent times, will be present at the meeting of the opposition parties to be held on July 17 and 18. Her outreach is said to have been crucial in the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2004. She has worked as an ally with many of the opposition leaders who will be present in the Bengaluru meeting and enjoys a good rapport with them. She continues to be the chairperson of the UPA, which may be non-existent for all practical purposes.
Congress leaders feel that her presence in the meeting will have the immediate effect of adding weight to the party's representation in the gathering. It will also help in the Congress's efforts to ensure that the two-day event packs a punch.
Party leaders point out the special connection that the Gandhi family has had with Karnataka. It was with her victory in Chikkamagaluru that Indira Gandhi made her political comeback after being ousted from power in the aftermath of the Emergency. Sonia, too, chose a constituency in Karnataka when she made her electoral debut. She had contested from Bellary in 1999. She had also contested from Amethi in that election. She had won from both the seats and opted to retain Amethi.