Sonia invites Stalin, other opposition leaders for dinner

New Delhi: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has invited DMK working president M.K. Stalin for dinner on March 13, which will be attended by leaders from various parties from different states, who are not part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Congress sources said on Saturday.

However, Stalin will not be able to attend the dinner as the assembly session in Tamil Nadu is beginning from March 15, said a DMK leader.

“Yes, he (Stalin) has been invited, but since the assembly session in Tamil Nadu is starting March 15, he may not be able come. Kanimozhi will be attending the dinner,” DMK leader T.K.S. Elangovan told IANS.

Gandhi is going to host the opposition leaders over dinner amid suggestions to forge a common front against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Bihar Leader of Opposition and former Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, and former state Chief Minister and chief of Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular Jitan Ram Manjhi have also been invited to attend the dinner, leaders of the two parties said.

In the absence of Lalu Prasad, Tejashwi Yadav is the main player for Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) — an ally of the Congress party and the lead constituent of the three-party Grand Alliance in Bihar.

Lalu Prasad is currently lodged in a jail in Ranchi in connection with two fodder scam cases.

The latest entrant to the Grand Alliance and its third constituent is Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S).

The dinner, which the sources described as “customary”, comes amid renewed push by opposition parties to take on the Narendra Modi government on several issues including the Rs 12,600-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

Congress and 17 other opposition parties have been holding meetings since the presidential and vice presidential elections last year to take similar stance on common issues against the BJP.

Sonia Gandhi had last month said that she will work with like-minded political parties to defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.