Opposition leaders call for new anti-BJP front with Congress for 2024 Lok Sabha polls

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar led call for a new alliance that includes the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

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In a major step towards forging a united anti-BJP front, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and other prominent opposition leaders on Sunday called for a new alliance that includes the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, stressing that a bipolar contest will ensure the BJP's defeat.

"If all non-BJP parties unite, which must include our friends from Congress, then we can get rid of those working to destroy the country," Kumar said at a mega rally organised by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) here to mark former deputy prime minister Devi Lal's birth anniversary.

The JD(U) leader, who snapped ties with the BJP last month, said there is "no question of a Third Front" and there should be one "main front" to trounce the BJP in the 2024 elections.

The same sentiment was echoed by other leaders including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant.

Even INLD president OP Chautala said that "they will talk to all parties including Congress to form a united front of opposition parties."

Chautala and Shiromani Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal, both with a long history of fighting the Congress, were on the stage with other senior leaders like Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Though not in as many words, Badal underlined the need for opposition parties to come together.

He asserted that the "real NDA is here on this stage not somewhere else. The founding members SAD, Shiv Sena, and JD(U) are present here. We removed the BJP from the NDA."

The leaders attacked the BJP, accusing it of trying to create "Hindu-Muslim disturbances" to benefit politically and making false claims and promises.

Pawar spoke at length on the plight of farmers who protested against the three farm laws and said the government has still not fulfilled their demand for minimum support price (MSP).

He also talked about the government not taking back cases filed against the protesting farmers.

"The real solution to problems of farmers and unemployment can only be by bringing a change and everyone must strive for a change of the government at the Centre in 2024. All opposition parties should come together," he said.

Speaking on similar lines, Yechury said it is time to change the manager who is "mismanaging the country and creating chaos".

"We all should come on one platform including the Congress," the CPM leader said.

Though no one from the Congress attended the rally, Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence in the national capital after the public meeting.

Kumar later told reporters that all parties are on the same page in the fight against the BJP and talks on a concrete plan of action will be held after the election of the Congress president.

However, regional bigwigs like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who have shown an inclination towards forming a non-Congress alliance to take on the BJP in the past, stayed away from the rally, besides Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

With one leader after another pitching for a larger unity among opposition parties, JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said in his speech that the rally marked the beginning of the coming together of non-BJP parties in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

In his address, Kumar suggested that an opposition front cannot be envisaged without the Congress and the Left parties.

He urged leaders on the dais, including some with a strong anti-Congress history, to work for a larger unity and said this "main front of opposition" will ensure that the saffron party loses badly in the 2024 general elections.

There is no real Hindu-Muslim conflict in society, Nitish Kumar said in his address, adding that some mischief-makers are present everywhere.

A large number of Muslims chose to remain in India after the Partition in 1947, he added.

RJD leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav alleged that the BJP does not want real issues such as price rise and unemployment to be discussed and instead harps on topics like "Musalmaan, Pakistan, mandir and masjid".

He said the JD(U), SAD and the Shiv Sena left the BJP-led NDA to save the Constitution and democracy.

Where is the NDA now, he asked.

He accused the BJP of making false claims and promises and dubbed it as "Badka Jhuta Party" (big lying party).

The RJD leader called for fighting the BJP, saying those who will be scared of it will be finished while those who take it on will win.

Yadav said the BJP wants everyone except those aligned to it and the RSS to be finished and lauded farmers of Haryana and Punjab, saying they taught the party a lesson, a reference to their protests against the now-repealed farm laws.

The BJP government is selling out all public firms and wanted to sell off farmers' land as well, he alleged and also attacked it for the 'Agniveer' scheme, a short-term recruitment programme in the armed forces.

While leaving the rally venue, Kumar told reporters he was not a contender for the prime minister's post.

No real work is happening under the BJP government at the Centre, he alleged, accusing it of imposing its control over different institutions, including the media, to peddle a "one-sided" narrative.

Seven parties are together in Bihar and the BJP is all alone, the Janata Dal (United) leader said, adding that the BJP can't win in the elections.

The rally was organised by INLD to mark the 109th anniversary of its founder Devi Lal.

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is fighting for survival in Haryana following a split after its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala's elder son Ajay Chautala formed Jannayak Janata Party, a BJP ally.

The JJP had managed to secure most of the traditional INLD votes in the last assembly polls.

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