A large contingent of senior Opposition party leaders, including Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Sharad Yadav (rebel JD-U leader), D. Raja (CPI), Hardik Patel (Gujarat’s Patidar leader) and Omar Abdullah (National Conference), marched in silence in Mumbai to “save” the Constitution, which, they said, was under “assault”.
The march, which brought several Opposition parties barring the Congress on a common platform in a show of unity, forced the ruling BJP to hold its own parallel “Tiranga Yatra” in the city that was addressed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The “Samvidhaan Bachao” (Save the Constitution) march, coinciding with Republic Day, which marks the coming into force of the Constitution, is being seen as an attempt to consolidate anti-BJP forces ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Ahead of the march, Mr Pawar, Mr Yechury, Mr Yadav, Mr Raja, Mr Patel, Mr Abdullah, Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamul Congress) and Sushilkumar Shinde met at the official residence of Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
Later, Mr Pawar said that Opposition parties will meet in New Delhi on January 29 to mull on the way ahead in the fight against the BJP as they held a march to “save” the Constitution which they said was under “assault”.
The protesters marched from the statue of B.R. Ambedkar, near the Mumbai University campus, to the Gateway of India.
NCP leaders Praful Patel and D.P. Tripathi and former MP Ram Jethmalani were also present.
Independent MP from Maharashtra Raju Shetti, the convener of the “Save the Constitution” march, who was also present at the meeting, said, “This will be a silent morcha (march). After reaching the Gateway (of India), they will stage a sit-in for some time. There will be no speeches.”
The BJP’s “Tiranga Yatra” started from Chaityabhoomi and concluded at the Kamgar Stadium in Central Mumbai, covering a distance of around 2.5 km. At the venue, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis addressed a gathering and launched a scathing attack on non-BJP parties over their event.
He mocked the Opposition parties and questioned the legislative strength of some of them.
“People are wise and they know their (Opposition’s) hypocrisy. Eighteen parties, some of them not having a single MLA or MLC, could not manage to assemble even 1,800 people,” he said.