Will work together to defeat BJP: Rahul

Will work together to defeat BJP: Rahul

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. DH Photo

With an "anybody will be better than Narendra Modi" line, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday raised the pitch for Opposition unity by warming up to the Congress as he met its president Rahul Gandhi for the first time.

While both Rahul and TDP chief Naidu left the question of who will lead the Opposition for future discussions, they agreed that "anti-BJP parties" should soon meet in Delhi to chalk out an "action plan" to take on the Modi regime under which the country has “gone from bad to worse”.

The meeting was politically significant since Naidu — who had his political rooting in the Congress as a junior minister in the T Anjaiah Cabinet in the then united Andhra Pradesh in early 1980s — has maintained a distance from the national party for decades. Naidu joined the TDP formed by his father-in-law and Telugu matinee idol N T Rama Rao.

The common theme of the meetings that Naidu — who was in Delhi for a second time in the past five days — had with Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah and Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav among others was the need for unity in the fight against Modi.

"Modi let down the country, (he) betrayed the nation... any leader will perform better than Modi... not only Rahul Gandhi, anybody will do better. You will do better," Naidu told a press conference after a series of meetings with leaders, who also included CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, RLD chief Ajit Singh and former Union minister Arun Shourie.

With a 'Save the Nation, Save Democracy' theme, Opposition leaders are trying to build a narrative against the BJP based on rise in unemployment, farmers' unrest, Rafale deal and destruction of institutions like the CBI and RBI among others.

The highlight of Naidu's activities during the day was his driving down to Rahul's residence after his meeting with Pawar and Abdullah. The hour-long meeting, which came as the two parties decided to bury their bitter past since the TDP's inception on an anti-Congress plank in 1984, culminated in a surprise joint media briefing by the duo.

Naidu acknowledged the "democratic compulsions" for the coming together even as Rahul said both agreed not to get into the past but talk about the present and future because it was "critical for our country".

"I had a good meeting today with Chandrababu Naidu. Among other things, we discussed the issue of Opposition unity. I look forward to carrying forward our dialogue and working together in the upcoming state and general elections," Rahul tweeted.

With Naidu on side, he told reporters, "Opposition forces are going to work together to defend India, our institutions and our democracy."

Main Opposition face

On who will be the main Opposition face, both said the principle idea was to defeat the BJP and defend democracy. "Your interest is in sensationalism but we have to work together to deliver people's aspirations... everything else is secondary. We will do what is our primary challenge," Rahul said.

Naidu supplemented, "You are interested in the candidate, we are interested in the nation. You also think first about the nation. It is a reality you have to understand that the Congress is a main Opposition party. All other parties are necessary. So, we will work on these things."

Asked about his chances of being the Opposition face, Naidu said they were "on a mission and not ambition" and that he was "not aspiring for anything and just doing his duty".

Insisting that there is a need to "save this nation and democracy", Naidu said the main Opposition leaders have a responsibility to discharge. "Not only two parties, we want to bring all those opposing the BJP to a common platform. We want to chalk out a common programme for future," he said.

Last Saturday, Naidu held meetings with BSP chief Mayawati, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, Farooq Abdullah and veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav. He also had a telephonic chat with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav two days ago.


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