Opposition parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen reacted angrily on Friday over not being invited to the all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the situation along the India-China border and raised questions over the criteria for the invitation.
The Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs, including his daughter Misa Bharti and Manoj Jha, also staged a protest at Mahatma Gandhi’s statue inside the Parliament complex and contended that despite being the chief opposition party in Bihar and the single largest party in the Assembly, it was not invited.
Jha also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi expressing “deep anguish” at being excluded from the all party meeting on an issue of such national importance.
According to sources, the criteria followed for sending invites to parties was — all recognised national parties, those with over 5 MPs in the Lok Sabha, leading parties from the Northeast and parties with Union Cabinet ministers.
Hitting out at the criteria, Jha tweeted, “The untenable logic of ‘FIVE MEMBERS’ gets exposed… first through our strength of 5 in RS and second.. TDP- 4 MP invited, Apna Dal- 2 MPs invited, SAD- 2 MPs invited, CPI- 2 MPs invited, NC- 1 MP invited…There is more to it than what meets the eye.”
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party was also miffed at not being invited at the all-party meet with its Rajya Sabha leader Sanjay Singh saying the party has a government in Delhi and in Punjab, it is the main opposition party, but still the BJP does not want its opinion on such an important matter.
“The BJP government at the Centre should take everyone along on a serious issue like national security. It is unfortunate for democracy that a three-time chief minister has not been called for suggestions on an important subject,” Singh told reporters.
In its official statement, the AAP said it is proud that “All Party Meeting is taking place in New Delhi, where AAP governs, and hopes that the meeting will bring about honourable solutions to the threat posed by China and to the ongoing crisis in Ladakh, bringing back Galwan Valley back into India”.
“The AAP remains committed to stand up for India in all respects. It remains disappointed at its exclusion from the meeting but stands committed to its outcome,” it said.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav also questioned the criteria for inviting parties to the meet.
Jha, in his letter to Modi, also said his party has five MPs in Rajya Sabha, which makes it qualify this “strange and arbitrary criteria”.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi also wrote to Modi, expressing disappointment at his party not being invited to the all-party meet.
At a time when national consensus and a unified response is essential, it is unfortunate that AIMIM was not invited to the meeting, Owaisi said in his letter.
“Furthermore, the ‘criteria’ of the invitees betrays any rational explanation. It is absurd to limit the invitee-political parties only to those with over 5 Lok Sabha MPs, parties with Union Cabinet Ministers, and recognised national parties. This situation required the government to include every political party with a Member of Parliament,” he said.
“It is essential to convene Parliament at the earliest so that opposition parties may seek accountability from the ruling party and the government is bound to answer queries of representatives regarding occupation of Indian territory,” Owaisi said.
He also urged the government to set up a review committee so that objective facts must be shared in the public domain regarding extent of Chinese incursions, extent of lapses in Indian decision-making and the consequent loss of Indian territory to Chinese occupation.
The government must publish the Committee’s findings in a White Paper and make it accessible to the public, he demanded.
Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular leader H D Deve Gowda, who also was not invited to the meeting, said he fully appreciated the prime minister’s decision to call the all-party meet.
Gowda offered his suggestions, saying a senior serving military officer and diplomat should make a detailed presentation to opposition leaders on the ground situation, and the progress of talks.
“Only with this information could there be a meaningful exchange of ideas between the government and the opposition leaders… The demand here is not for classified details, but truthful information,” he said.
The virtual all party meeting comes after 20 India Army personnel, including a colonel, died in a violent clash with Chinese troops in Galwan valley in Ladakh.
BJP chief J P Nadda, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, TRS leader K Chandrashekhar Rao, JD-U leader Nitish Kumar, DMK’s M K Stalin, YSR Congress Party’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray were among those who attended the meeting.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, had asked the government to be transparent about the situation on the border and slammed its handling of the issue.