Sharad Pawar INSULTS Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi: In a development that revealed further chinks in the opposition, the NCP boycotted an opposition meeting called by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday, but there was some solace as rebel JD-U member Ali Anwar Ansari, close to Sharad Yadav, attending the meeting. At the meeting, the opposition parties agreed to carry forward their coordination against the Modi government beyond what was seen at the recently-concluded presidential and vice-presidential elections and the monsoon session of Parliament. The meeting also decided to constitute a small coordination committee to discuss future strategy against the BJP-led NDA government. Former Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav, who is visiting Bihar, was invited for the meeting but he deputed Ansari since he could not attend. Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attended the meeting, as did CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. The NCP's staying away from the meeting comes after two of its MLAs in Gujarat are believed to have voted for BJP in the Rajya Sabha election on Tuesday. NCP leader Praful Patel said his party was boycotting the meeting called by Congress. "We are not the B-team of the Congress. We are not in alliance with the Congress anywhere, still we supported them in Gujarat, but their spokesperson in Gujarat kept blaming us," Patel told the media. "If Congress is attacking NCP, despite the support extended in Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, we see no point of attending the meeting," he added. The meeting thanked opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar and vice-presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi, saying they contested the election despite knowing that the result was likely to be unfavourable. The opposition parties had come together to put up an "ideological fight" against the Modi government in the presidential and vice-presidential election, but the fledgling issue-based unity suffered a setback after JD-U president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to dump RJD and Congress and join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the parties had raised issues in Parliament in a coordinated manner and floor management has improved. "A small coordination committee will be formed of opposition leaders to decide the future programmes," he said. He said the Congress President will form the committee and it has been left to her to decide how many members will be there. Asked about the absence of NCP, Azad said party supremo Sharad Pawar is not well and could not come. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leader A.K. Antony and CPI leader D. Raja were among those who attended the meeting. IANS