In a show of opposition unity, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah attended the swearing-in ceremony of Siddaramaiah as the Karnataka Chief Minister on Saturday.
Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi was not present during the ceremony at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, where D K Shivakumar took oath as Deputy Chief Minister and eight MLAs as Cabinet Ministers.
The PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states — Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan) and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu (Himachal Pradesh)–, and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav (RJD) were also present.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, actor-politician Kamal Haasan, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren and CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI General Secretary D Raja too were present.
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, was conspicuous by her absence at the event, which was attended by tens of thousands of people as the Congress sought to promote opposition unity.
Banerjee has designated TMC Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar for the programme.
”Banerjee skipping the event has come as some kind of a dampener, especially after her recent statement that in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, her party will support the Congress where it is strong,” a Congress leader said.
”Wherever the Congress is strong, let them fight. We will give them support; there is nothing wrong (in that). But they also have to support other political parties,” Banerjee said recently.
Her statement came soon after Congress scored the emphatic victory over the BJP in the southern state bagging 135 seats in the 224-member Assembly.
”I have been invited by the Congress president (Mallikarjun Kharge). It (Karnataka Assembly poll) was an important election. Also, I have an old friendship with him (Siddaramaiah). I will be going tomorrow,” Nitish Kumar told reporters in Darbhanga on Friday.
Kumar asked journalists to hold their horses upon being repeatedly asked about a meeting of opposition leaders, which his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee has asked him to hold in Bihar.
”Let me come back from the function tomorrow. We will take a call in due course,” said the JD(U) supremo, who had hinted that the meeting could be held after the election in the southern state. Former Union Minister M Veerappa Moily said on Friday the swearing-in ceremony could also be a launchpad for opposition unity and demonstration of strength and solidarity.