Sonia hosts dinner for opposition, prominent leaders attend

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"The intention is not political, but to hold discussions in family-like setting at a time when the nation is confronted with a number of issues and thousands of crores being taken out of the country", Congress' Chief SPokesman Randeep Surjewala said after the dinner.

The dinner will be hosted at the 10 pm at the Janpath residence of Sonia Gandhi, is expected to set the tone for opposition unity in the run-up to the next general elections.

As news of Samajwadi Party's astonishing lead in the Uttar Pradesh bypolls started trickling in, political leaders from across the spectrum shared their reactions to the outcome. "Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection" said congress president Rahul Gandhi after the dinner.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said the effort to unite the opposition was underway.

In attendance at Sonia's dinner party were leaders of existing and estranged UPA allies - NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK's Kanimozhi, Trinamool Congress' Sudip Bandopadhyay, JMM's Hemant Soren, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav and Misa Bharati, National Conference's Omar Abdullah, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP's SC Mishra, Rashtriya Lok Dal's Ajit Singh - as well as new-found friends AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, RSP leader NK Premachandran, Hindustan Awam Morcha's Jitan Ram Manjhi, among others.

Also present at the Congress camp were Ghulam Nabi Azad, A K Antony and Randeep Singh Surjewala. "Congress doesn't have democracy in its genes", parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said.

Grouches count for little at a time when the opposition fears BJP wave to have enough momentum to help the party retain power in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

"This dinner is for harmony and friendship".

The Biju Janata Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party led by Delgi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi who was once a part of the UPA, the AIADMK, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the YSR Congress Party and the Shiv Sena were also not invited to the dinner.

Opposition leaders at the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi on March 13.

Prior to this meeting, Sonia Gandhi in her recent interviews said there is a necessity for opposition parties to work together at national level.

Left and TMC leaders who were present said it was certainly a "political dinner without political talks". Top NCP sources have said that Pawar has called a meet of all Opposition leaders, including the Congress, to discuss a strategy for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mamata Banerjee had recently spoken to several key regional party leaders to renew the focus on efforts at forming a non-BJP platform.

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