Sharad Pawar to host oppn meet by end of March: NCP

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UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's dinner diplomacy on Tuesday saw attendance of both Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders, days after Congress went ahead solo in the Lok Sabha bypoll in Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from NCP, SP and BSP leaders, Rashtriya Janata Dal's (RJD) Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Morcha's (HAM) Jitan Ram Manjhi, National Conference's (NC) Omar Abdullah, JVM's Babulal Marandi, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)'s Kanimozhi and All India United Democratic Front's (AIUDF) Badruddin Ajmal also attended the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi.

Congress communications in charge Randeep Surjewala said the dinner was not organised for politics, but for amity and friendship among opposition parties.

Briefing reporters on the BJP parliamentary party meeting, which was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its president Amit Shah, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the government has been talking to different parties to break the deadlock in Parliament and targeted the Congress. He had earlier said, "Will not be able to attend the dinner as the Assembly session in Tamil Nadu was beginning from March 15".

Prior to this meeting, Sonia Gandhi in her recent interviews said there is a necessity for opposition parties to work together at national level. "Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", said Rahul Gandhi.

The RJD was represented by the son and daughter of party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav- former deputy.

Sources in the SP and BSP, however, maintained that the dinner meet can not be seen as an attempt to forge an alliance and that "regional parties" will continue to have an "inevitable greater control in state politics". It could not be taken up amid objections raised by opposition parties who have written to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan requesting her intervention. "This was meant to strengthen dialogue between the friendly parties".

The tussle started on the issue of the public sector bank frauds when the second half of budget session began on 5 March.

Even though Banerjee had been advocating a non-BJP non-Congress front, Pawar has invited the Congress as well, NCP sources said.

"Congress continues to have a repressive mindset toward democracy".

The Congress put the onus on the government to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament. Kumar alleged that Congress was running away from a debate. The dinner was hosted at Sonia Gandhi's 10, Janpath residence where the leaders discussed the possibility of opposition parties getting together on one platform to defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, sources said.

PTI contributed to the story.