A meeting consisting of the prominent opposition party members was organized at NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s residence in Delhi.
The members engaged in discourse on the challenges faced by the country involving the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy of India, and geopolitics.
Along with the opposition, activists and participants also attended the meeting. Economist Arun Kumar, former diplomat KC Singh, public figure Javed Akhtar were present at the residence.
The leaders from opposition parties including, All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), stressed that the meeting was not for a third front but a meeting of like-minded individuals.
The members were questioned on the absence of Congress party members, they clarified that five MPs of the Congress party were sent invites but could not attend due to some reasons.
The speculations of a third front to oppose the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had emerged on June 21, when poll strategist Prashant Kishore met Sharad Pawar, the leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Trinamool Congress Vice President, Yashwant Sinha conveyed the non-political forum, Rashtra Manch. He stated that more efforts will be made in the future to ensure the platform receives more participation.
NCP member Majeed Menon said, “Rashtra Manch is not an anti-BJP front. Chatter that this is a political front is incorrect. We called all those people who subscribe to our ideas, including at least five leaders from Congress. There was no attempt to discriminate against any political party, not to boycott Congress.”
The meeting lasted for more than two hours. It was also attended by National Conference party (NC) member Omar Abdullah,
Sushil Gupta of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Binoy Viswan from Communist Party of India (CPI).
Who is the Rashtra Manch?
Rashtra Manch was originally curated by Congress leader Manish Tiwari and Diplomat K.C Singh.
The platform was further molded by former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, former Janata Dal-United (JDU) leader Pavan Varma and former Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi towards the end of 2017.
The initial idea with the platform was to bring together like-minded personalities from different walks of life, including writers, artists, trade union leaders, and journalists.
The group was officially launched in January 2018. Yashwant Sinha at that time had asserted that the party would be a non-political action group that highlights various national issues.
In January 2020, Yashwant Sinha embarked on Gandhi Shanti Yatra under the banner of Rashtra Manch to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Rashtra Manch has limited itself with occasional meetings.
India Today Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to Pavan Verma from JD (U), and lyricist Javed Akhtar about the meet. He asked if the meeting held at Sharad Pawar’s residence was a non-Congress and non-BJP meeting.
To which Pavan Verma replied, “I don’t think this was about a third front. The Rashtra Manch is an open-ended discussion forum, not divorced from politics, but also not a part of mainstream politics. The focus is on issues of current importance and analyzing political developments.
Here, political parties invite the members of other political parties and personalities for a discussion on these issues.
There can be no front against the BJP without the participation of Congress and the third front is essentially not viable based on electoral mathematics.”
In the interview, lyricist Javed Akhtar denied the claims of anti-center stating,
“No. There was neither any discussion on PM Modi nor about a third front”
Upon being asked about the absence of the Congress members, Pavan Verma answered, “ This is for the Congress to answer.
The Congress has officially attended in the past and as I said, it is not viable to form a front against the BJP while omitting the Congress.”