Sonia Gandhi hosts dinner for 17 Opposition leaders at 10 Janpath

Congress President Rahul Gandhi

Apart from Sonia, the Congress was represented by party president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, and other senior leaders including AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

This dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi for opposition parties should not be seen through the prism of politics, it was for friendship and better dialogue between parties, the Congress leader said.

Although leaders who attended dinner rubbed it off saying it was just an informal bonding of several opposition leaders, the development clearly hints that Congress is attempting to form a strong anti-Modi front to face the coming 2019 polls, and at the same time beats down the third front talks. He had earlier said, "Will not be able to attend the dinner as the Assembly session in Tamil Nadu was beginning from March 15".

Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "Fabulous dinner tonight".

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

TRS chief and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also spoke enthusiastically about a federal front.

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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".

In the letter, opposition parties have pointed out that there was no discussion on tabling the Finance Bill during the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting and that the government had listed the bill without informing any political party in advance.

The dinner hosted by Mrs Gandhi is expected to set the tone for opposition unity in the run-up to the next general elections.

He claimed at a time when the government was not allowing Parliament to function, it was obvious that leaders of various parties, who wanted to raise issues in national interest, would get together to discuss the current political situation.

Considerable significance is being attached to the dinner in the midst of speculation about the political realignment that could take place ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections. "When the government does not have interest to run Parliament, then it is natural that leaders of opposition parties, who are concerned about the problems faced by the people, will discuss the country's politics".

The Bahujan Samaj Party, which has skipped Opposition meetings in the past, was represented by senior leader Satish Chandra Misra. He also accused the government of running away from debate on key issues such as banking frauds. "It was a show of strength by the non-BJP parties", a Left leader told PTI.

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