The host of Tuesday’s meeting of the Rashtra Manch, NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar made a “blink and miss” appearance for a group photo before retreating indoors and leaving it to others to face the media.
The discussion of “like minded” people was bereft of any heavyweight presence apart from Pawar himself. In fact, some of the key attendees were at pains to emphasise that the two-and-a-half hour meeting was not another “front” in the making ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and that Congress’s absence was just incidental. Former BJP dissident and now Trinamool Congress vice president Yashwant Sinha, founder of Rashtra Manch and in whose name the invites were sent out, also made a hurried exit, leaving it to NCP’s legal eagle Majeed Memon and Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari to fend questions about the purpose of the meeting seen to be the result of Pawar’s deliberations with political consultant Prashant Kishor.There seemed an attempt to downplay the political significance of the meeting, perhaps in the light of some of the faultlines such as Trinamool-Left and Congress’s absence at the discussions. The somewhat ad-hoc list of participants might have also contributed to a cautious approach to imparting any political meaning to the talks. “Rashtra Manch is not an anti-BJP front. Chatter that this is a political front is incorrect, we called all those people who subscribe to our ideas, including at least five leaders from Congress. There was no attempt to discriminate against any political party, nor to boycott the Congress,” Memon said.