INDIA meeting to kick off today

Mumbai: As the battle heats up for next year’s Lok Sabha elections, the 26-member Opposition bloc — INDIA — will on Thursday hold its third meeting in Mumbai, picking up from where they left off in their last huddle at Bengaluru and carrying forward the process of laying a broader roadmap against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.

While the discussion among the partner leaders in the bloc would centre on the battle plan for the next general elections and a seat-sharing formula, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is also likely to unveil its logo during the two-day meeting starting Thursday. The INDIA leaders would go into an informal huddle on Thursday and the same would be followed by a formal meeting on September 1.

While the inaugural meeting of the Opposition bloc was convened by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the third meeting is being organised by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the Opposition alliance in Maharashtra comprising the Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction led by Sharad Pawar. Ahead of the mega huddle, Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister, Ashok Chavan, on Wednesday said the Opposition parties came together to save democracy in the country.

Speaking to media persons on Wednesday, Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said all preparations have been made to host the third INDIA meeting.

“Six sitting chief ministers would attend the third INDIA meeting. All preparations have been made to host our partner leaders,” Raut said on Wednesday.

Significantly, this would mark the first meeting of the Opposition alliance in a state where none of the INDIA partners are in power. Maharashtra is currently under the rule of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), comprising the Shiv Sena, BJP, and the rival NCP faction led by Ajit Pawar.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference on Wednesday, former CM and Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray said all true nationalists have come together under INDIA. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, who arrived in Mumbai on Wednesday, tied a rakhi to the former Maharashtra CM at his residence, Matoshree.

Speaking to reporters after tying the rakhi to the Sena (UBT) chief, Mamata said, “Khela hobe (the game is on).”

Earlier, on Monday, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole confirmed the participation of the party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge, as well as Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, at the two-day meeting. Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin had also confirmed his participation in the meeting earlier.