NCP, Sena appear to differ on Cong role in Oppn ranks

NCP, Shiv Sena appear to differ on Congress role in Opposition ranks

As the NCP leader highlighted the need for uniting all Opposition parties, Sena was of the view that Congress cannot be ignored

NCP and Shiv Sena on Tuesday appeared to have differing perceptions on the role of Congress in the Opposition ranks even though none of them wanted to exclude the grand old party in the fight against the BJP.

While the NCP highlighted the strength of non-UPA MPs exceeding the Congress, Sena maintained that an Opposition front will not be possible without Congress.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik's comments came after a meeting of his party's Working Committee and on a day Sena's senior leader Sanjay Raut met former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to discuss emerging political scenarios and forging unity among Opposition parties. Raut's meeting came days after Sena firmly backed Congress against Trinamool Congress.

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"We will make every effort to unite all non-BJP parties, including the Congress, to forge an alternative to the BJP. People want change in 2024. If an alternative alliance is formed, there will be a change in 2024," Malik told reporters while choosing to ignore the issue of leadership of such an alliance.

Malik also said an anti-BJP front should have the Congress but the existing UPA does not have all parties and no non-UPA parties should be excluded. "Sharad Pawar has been saying this for some time now that not all opposition parties are in the Congress-led UPA. In fact, the number of non-UPA MPs exceeds the UPA MPs. If we do not bring all of them on board then it will be difficult to build an anti-BJP front," he said.

As the NCP leader highlighted the need for uniting all Opposition parties, Sena was of the view that Congress cannot be ignored. "An Opposition front is not possible without Congress. The face of the opposition front may be a matter of discussion. Rahul Gandhi will soon visit Mumbai. There should be only one opposition front," Raut told reporters after the meeting with Rahul.

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The meeting came amid speculation that Shiv Sena would formally join the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) even as Sena sources said that it was not necessary as they are already in an alliance with Congress in Maharashtra where it runs the government.

Raut's discussions with Rahul also came days after Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamna' that creating an alliance parallel to UPA sans Congress was akin to strengthening "fascist" forces after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to Mumbai and her search for allies to form an opposition alliance.

Asked whether the Sena would join the UPA, he said, "it was a long meeting. I will first meet (party supremo and Maharashtra Chief Minister) Uddhav Thackery and then we'll talk about it."

Mamata has been attempting to form a grouping of opposition parties arguing that Congress has not been able to take on the BJP and ceding space. She had met Pawar during her recent visit to Mumbai but could not meet Thackeray due to his health conditions. Raut and Aditya Thackeray, a Maharashtra Minister and Uddhav Thackery's son, had met Mamata. 

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