The timing of the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hours after leading the new Speaker to his chair in the Lok Sabha and introducing his Council of Ministers to the House, conveys the priority and seriousness he attaches to the meet.
This all-party meeting is distinct in two other aspects — first, it is a meeting where the prime minister has invited the presidents of all national and regional parties, whereas only leaders representing parties in Parliament are usually invited to all-party meetings convened by the prime minister during a session; second, this meet is not on an immediate crisis or on the current session of Parliament but is about a policy issue that concerns all political parties, the Election Commission, security forces, Central and state government agencies and the citizens of India.
The idea of 'one nation, one poll' — holding simultaneous parliamentary and state Assembly elections — is the primary issue listed on the agenda of the all-party meeting.
This is why the chiefs of all parties, national and regional, were given due importance and invited to the meeting so they get a chance to voice their position, for or against the concept, and hear out counter points. Being a democratic set up, opposing views are more than likely, and the idea behind this meeting is to attempt to build a broad consensus on the subject.
What is striking is the way known suspects in the Opposition ranks have decided to boycott the very first all-party meeting called by the re-elected Modi government and the 17th Lok Sabha. Congress president Rahul Gandhi leads the pack. Among others who decided to skip the meeting are West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, DMK chief MK Stalin and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who had initially shown inclination to attend the meeting, also decided to boycott it in the end.
It would be fair to note that till 23 May, when the results of the Lok Sabha elections were announced, most of the leaders in the absentee pack, besides Stalin, nursed prime ministerial ambitions. In the run-up to the polls, they were so confident of forming the government that their bitterness against Modi became clearer in their statements by the day.
There are three possible reasons for why the leaders decided to reject the prime minister's invite to the all-party meeting and not sit across the table from him:
First, they have not yet accepted the verdict of the Lok Sabha polls and the defeat they suffered, and are, hence, still unwilling to give Modi primacy of place and be one among the many at a meeting being chaired by someone they called a threat to the nation and the idea of India and Indian democracy.
Second, they fear losing an argument to Modi in front of leaders of other political parties. They may have an argument against holding simultaneous polls, but unlike at a public rally, they can expect a rebuttal or response from the government, most likely from Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah, in a structured meet. They fear losing their personal standing among their peers if they are unable to make a stronger argument.
Third, they believe that their opinion and arguments at the meeting don't really matter as Modi will ultimately do what he wants to, given the kind of mandate he has.
Interestingly, those in the Opposition who did not nurse prime ministerial ambitions, such as Nationalist Congress chief Sharad Pawar, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik, Andhra Pradesh chief minister and YSRCP boss Jagan Mohan Reddy and TRS working president KT Rama Rao (son of Telangana chief minister K Chadrashekhar Rao) will attend the meeting.
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 17:01:10 IST