The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) did a no-show at the Opposition meeting convened on Friday evening here, even as Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar, a member of the breakaway Janata Dal (United) that owes allegiance to Sharad Yadav, participated in the discussions.
During the meeting which comprised leaders of 16 parties, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was authorised to form a small group to coordinate with like-minded parties on programmes to be organised in the next three months.
While Congress leader Ahmed Patel's success at pulling off victory from the jaws of defeat in the Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat provides hopes, the Nitish Kumar affair in Bihar has dealt a debilitating blow to unity efforts amongst the "secular parties" in recent weeks.
While the opposition was upbeat before the meeting, it received a jolt with the NCP deciding to stay away. The high-stake elections not only revived the talk of "mahagathbandan", it has literally forced a split in JD (U), whose lone tribal MLA Chhotu Vasava voted for Patel going against the party whip. These MLAs, along with Shankersinh Vaghela, were removed from the party for six years on Wednesday, a day after the Rajya Sabha elections on August 8.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to play down the episode saying he had spoken to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar who has been keeping ill-health for the past 4-5 days.
Yechury also walked out of the meeting saying the CPI (M) has made a decision to launch an independent peoples' struggle on twin issues of agrarian crisis and unemployment to build a popular alternative narrative to the propaganda unleashed bu the Modi-led BJP. Yadav is all set to address RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's mahagathbandan's rally on August 27.
More such programmes should be taken up in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the next three months, she suggested.