20 opposition parties attend Sonia Gandhi dinner

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the dinner hosted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi was an opportunity for leaders.

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

Gandhi on Tuesday hosted a dinner for opposition politicos in which leaders of 20 parties, including the Congress, attended. "This dinner was not hosted for politics, but for amity and friendship".

Though the Congress party saying that the dinner should not be looked through a prism of politics, it could be guessed that inviting opposition party leaders for dinner is a first step forward towards building a united opposition to break the winning streak of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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

Former chief ministers of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha will attend the dinner, along with former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently quit the NDA and joined forces with Lalu Prasad's RJD.

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Asked about government's plans to deal with disruptions by friendly political parties such as the TDP, AIADMK and the TRS, Kumar said they would withdraw their protests if they get to participate in the debate on the general budget.

Talking to reporters after the dinner, hosted by Mrs Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence and which was attended by leaders of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, NCP, Trinamool Congress, CPI (M), CPI, DMK, RJD, HAM, RLD, National Conference, JDS, JMM, AIUDF, Kerala Congress, IUML, JVM, JMM and the RSP., AICC media incharge Randeep Singh Surjewala said the dinner aimed at a better dialogue between parties and for friendship. Rahul Gandhi speaks to Opposition leaders at the dinner.

Mr. Kumar cited the BJP's alliance with local parties in Northeast States to claim that the NDA is becoming "NDA plus".

He also accused the government of running away from a debate on key issues such as banking frauds.

Left and TMC leaders who were present said it was certainly a "political dinner without political talks".

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 the BJP in the recent past and are said to be jockeying for a third front of parties against the BJP and Congress.

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