Leaders of 28 opposition parties of the INDIA bloc began their two-day meeting to finalise the contours of their joint fight against the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections with a round of informal discussions in Mumbai on Thursday evening.
The informal talks were meant to finalise the agenda for the structured meeting to take place on Friday, and amongst the issues that are expected to come up in the formal discussions are planning joint protests, and setting up a committee to decide the issues on which these protests will be based on.
According to sources, also making it to the agenda of the meeting are setting up a coordination committee, a data analysis committee, and constituting a panel of common spokespersons for the alliance.
It is also learnt that the leaders discussed the government's decision to call a special session of Parliament between September 18 and 22, comprising five sittings. While the government has not specified the agenda of the meeting, the opposition leaders wondered whether it had anything to do with the buzz that the Modi dispensation was contemplating advancing the Lok Sabha elections.
There is a growing apprehension in the opposition camp that the government could look at holding early general elections and the alliance parties have to get their act together and be ready for such a scenario. It is learnt that there was a discussion on the need to speed up the process of seat sharing and finalising candidates.
As per sources, it was also discussed in the meeting whether the government was planning legislative measures for making possible simultaneous Parliament and assembly elections. Modi has been advocating simultaneous polls.
The meeting—the third round of discussions that the alliance leaders are holding to finetune a joint strategy for a united Lok Sabha outing after the ones held in Patna and Bengaluru—is being attended by around 63 leaders of 28 parties.
The informal meeting held at Grand Hyatt Hotel in suburban Mumbai was followed by a dinner at the same venue which was hosted by former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. The leaders will hold a formal meeting at the hotel on Friday, the discussions set to begin in the morning. A joint press conference is scheduled to be held at 3:30 pm at the end of the meeting. Ahead of the meeting, a logo of the INDIA alliance will be unveiled.
A sidelight of the meeting on Thursday was the press conference addressed by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the latest revelations about alleged irregularities committed by the Adani Group with regard to the company's stocks.
The top opposition leaders, as they arrived for the meeting, made light of the discussion about the differences in the grouping over who would be the convenor of the alliance or who would be the prime ministerial face of the grouping. They asserted that the issue of who will be prime minister is not at all being discussed at this juncture. It was stated that so far there has been no discussion on who would be the convenor of the INDIA bloc, and it could be discussed only after the coordination committee has been put in place.