Sonia Gandhi hosted 17 opposition leaders for dinner last night

Congress President Rahul Gandhi

"Congratulations to the winners of today's by-elections". It could not be taken up amid objections raised by opposition parties who have written to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan requesting her intervention.

"This dinner is for harmony and friendship".

The Biju Janata Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party led by Delgi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi who was once a part of the UPA, the AIADMK, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the YSR Congress Party and the Shiv Sena were also not invited to the dinner.

Opposition leaders on Wednesday advocated, with renewed vigour, for a grand alliance to defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after it was crushed in the by-polls to three Lok Sabha seats, especially in Uttar Pradesh where an alliance of arch rivals SP and BSP sealed the BJPs fate. Leaders of 20 parties joined the dinner at her residence in Delhi.

According to The Quint, prominent members of the Congress including party president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and A.K. Antony were seen in conversation with leaders from other opposition parties during the dinner. In the third seat, Araria, Lalu Prasad's RJD is leading by 86,000 votes.

"This dinner hosted by Mrs Sonia Gandhi for opposition parties should not be seen from the prism of politics".

Congress spokesperson Jyotiraditya Scindia said the results of the by-polls clearly indicated that across the country, people had spoken out against the "anti-farmer" rule of the Central government.

Nine trekkers killed in India forest fire
It said it had 40,000-odd members and that all its activities were "free (and) expenses (were) shared equally among participants". The Indian Air Force provided 16 commandos of the Garud Commando Force and three helicopters that have been in action all day.

Referring to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) pulling out of the Modi government, Tejashwi said that Opposition parties were getting together while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was "breaking apart".

Speaking at the popular "Aap Ki Adalat" television programme hosted by India TV journalist Rajat Sharma here, he also claimed that Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi will migrate to some other safer seats out of fear of losing their traditional constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

"Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection", he wrote, and tagged a group photo of the attendees.

Leaders who attended the dinner said there was no structured discussion but only informal chats about politics on different tables involving leaders across party lines.

Sonia Gandhi's dinner diplomacy was reminiscent of the lunch she had hosted for Opposition leaders on February 5, 2004, after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had cut short the duration of that Lok Sabha and had announced early elections.

The SP-BSP alliance has consolidated its lead in Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypoll and is ahead by over 26,000 votes.

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