'Positive energy, genuine affection': Rahul Gandhi says Sonia's dinner meet an 'opportunity'

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi with other senior party members

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".

Rahul took to Twitter and wrote: "Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji".

He also made light of Ms. Sonia Gandhi's invite to Opposition parties for a dinner, saying her dinner politics will be only about dinner while the BJP under Mr. Modi remains a "winner" with the ruling NDA attracting more allies.

Prominent leaders in attendance were NCP's Sharad Pawar, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren and Jitan Ram Manjhi, besides JD (U)'s Sharad Yadav and RLD's Ajit Singh.

Outside, Sharad Yadav spoke of the dinner as one step closer to lining up the opposition on the same side at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection.

Sonia Gandhi has called for opposition unity and said parties should set aside their minor differences to get together in the larger interest of keeping the BJP out of power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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"The opposition parties are united. and the NDA breaking apart", he said, pointing to Chandrababu Naidu's TDP and the Shiv Sena, the BJP ally from Maharashtra that has increasingly been its sharpest critic.

Besides Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and party leaders Ahmed Patel, and A.K. Antony were among those present.

Gandhi on Tuesday hosted a dinner for opposition politicos in which leaders of 20 parties, including the Congress, attended.

There had been some confusion after Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee took the initiative of contacting anti-Congress parties like the TRS.

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala echoed the sentiment.

He accused the government of running away from debates on the Rs. 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case and failing to tackle unemployment and difficulties faced by farmers.

This dinner is also significant in the context of moves by regional parties like the Telanagana Rashtra Samiti and the Telugu Desam Party which have attacked BJP in the recent past and are said to be jockeying for a third front of parties against the BJP and Congress. "It was a show of strength by the non-BJP parties", a Left leader told PTI. "This is our duty to let it work and the government has been doing everything to ensure that it happens", said Ananth Kumar, parliamentary affairs minister.

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