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Sharad Pawar- Mamata Banerjee manch readies to cast net wide

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NCP supremo Sharad Pawar hosted a ‘non-political’ meeting of the Rashtra Manch mentored by Trinamool Congress national vice-president Yashwant Sinha in New Delhi on Tuesday by rallying representatives of eight opposition political parties. The meet decided to expand the Manch by enrolling more members from like-minded opposition parties, activists and intellectuals. It authorised a panel led by Sinha to prepare a draft vision to fill the ‘current vacuum of a credible mainstream alternate agenda’ when the nation faces growing unemployment, farmers issues and economic crisis.

The pro-Congress gallery cried hoarse about a ‘anti-BJP and anti-Congress and third front’ agenda, but Manch convenor Ghanashyam Tiwari said it was an inclusive and not discriminatory platform of like-minded people and pointed out some Congress leaders such as Manish Tewari, Vevek Tankha, Kapil Sibal and Shatrughan Sinh were invited even though they could not turn up. Pawar and Sinha clarified the same at the beginning of the indoor meeting, it is learnt.

Though the political plot has several grey areas, the meeting and the resolve to expand the Manch advertises that the leaders are moving ahead with a non-Congress leadership-led initiative to mobilise and unite opposition parties, as ET had reported on Tuesday. With the Manch now set to include nominees of YSRCP, TRS, DMK, TDP and BJD, it will be up to the Congress leadership to tactically join or distance itself from it.

The ‘non-political’ Manch meet was attended by Sharad Pawar, Majeed Memon (NCP), Yashwant Sinha (Trinamool), Ghanshyam Tiwari (SP), Jayant Chaudhary (RLD), Farooq Abdullah (NC), Sushil Gupta (AAP), Binoy Viswam (CPI) and Nilotpal Basu (CPM). Some activists and intellectuals too attended the meeting.

“The members of Manch at today’s meeting felt the unemployment was the biggest national issue now, followed by the farmers’ misery and economic crisis. The meeting felt there was a vacuum of a mainstream alternate agenda. The Manch will now work towards framing such an agenda,” convenor Tiwari told ET after the meeting. “This was not a political meeting of third front. This is not a meeting called by Pawar but by Rashtra Manch led by Sinha, and Pawar only allowed us to hold the meeting at his place,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi parried questions on the Manch. “My intention here is to focus on Covid-19 and point to the direction, we think, the government should act. So, I will not distract you or myself by getting into what is going on in politics and what is going on here and there,” he said at a virtual news briefing in New Delhi.

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