New Delhi, Considered as a breakthrough political move that may eventually lead to a grand alliance against the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday met Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the latter’s residence.
The meeting took place hours after Mr Naidu met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah in the national capital.
Sensing a favourable political atmosphere, the Congress president has urged all opposition parties to unite. “We had a very good meeting. The gist of the meeting was we have to defend democracy and our institutions and future of the country. So we are coming together to work, all opposition forces must unite,” Mr Gandhi said after the meeting with Mr Naidu.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister concurred, saying all opposition parties have to unite. “We are coming together, to save the nation. We have to forget the past, now it is a democratic compulsion to unite.”
The meeting between Mr Naidu and Mr Gandhi is significant considering that the former had criticised the Congress party and praised Mr Modi before joining NDA in 2014.
Mr Naidu quit NDA earlier this year citing the Union government’s refusal to grand Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh, a promise given to the state during bifurcation.Mr Naidu and Mr Gandhi had also met in Bengaluru at the swearing-in ceremony of H D Kumaraswamy as Karnataka Chief Minister.
After his exit from the NDA, Mr Naidu has been a consistent critic of the Modi government, and is now working towards forming a common platform for opposition parties. Mr Naidu met BSP supremo Mayawati last week and also spoke to Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav.On his second visit to the national capital within a week, Mr Naidu met the Congress president.
Earlier in the day the Andhra Chief Minister stressed the importance of unity among the opposition parties. During Mr Naidu’s meeting with Mr Pawar and Mr Farooq, it was decided that he will talk to the non-BJP parties in their effort to form the Mahagathbandhan.
“Mr Naidu will talk to the regional leaders about meeting, and we will convene the meeting here,’ Mr Pawar and Mr Abdullah had said.
Mr Naidu’s attempt to move closer to the Congress is viewed as forming an alliance in his state, where former chief minister and late Congress leader YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress has become the main opposition party.
The Congress was defeated in the last Lok Sabha polls in Andhra Pradesh when the voters rejected the party holding it responsible for the state’s bifurcation.
The Congress president had appointed former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as AICC general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, as sources said, to cement the alliance with other parties and to re-build the party in the state.