Top Opposition politicians like Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, N Chandrababu Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal and Akhilesh Yadav skipped a meeting of party chiefs called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an indication that they were going to up the ante against the BJP.
Another absentee was BJP ally Shiv Sena's chief Uddhav Thackeray as he was to be in Mumbai to attend his party's foundation day celebrations.
AIADMK Convenor and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam deputed a minister C V Shanmukham to attend the meeting but he could not as the meeting was meant for party chiefs. Shanmukham was only allowed to share the views in writing with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
Most of the Opposition parties, including Congress, are against the idea of simultaneous polls, which was one of the prominent agenda of the meeting.
Interestingly, Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora appeared to be going against his party's opposition to simultaneous polls as he supported the idea. Being in continuous poll mode is a roadblock to good governance, which facilitates populism which is not necessarily a long-term solution to India's problems, he said.
While BSP chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata did not mince words in criticising the government while announcing their decision to skip the meeting, Congress chief Rahul cited his pre-occupations to stay away. TDP chief Naidu was to leave the country on Wednesday night and he sent in his suggestions.
Among the Opposition, NCP and three Left parties- CPIM, CPI and RSP – attended the meeting, while UPA allies like DMK, Muslim League and Kerala Congress chose to stay away. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI's S Sudhakar Reddy attended the meeting.
Sources said Congress has informed other Opposition parties during a meeting on Wednesday morning that it would not be attending the meeting but other parties were free to take their own stand.
Mamata earlier wrote a letter saying she wanted a detailed plan on simultaneous polls before organising a meeting. Akhilesh expressed his concerns by saying there was a hidden agenda behind simultaneous polls, which was against federal structure and regional parties.
Mayawati said, "elections can never be a problem in a democratic country... elections should not be viewed in terms of expenditure." She said she would have attended the meeting if it had been convened to discuss the electronic voting machines.