About 17 Opposition party leaders met over dinner at former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s home on Tuesday with the objective of forging better unity and alliance against the ruling BJP-led NDA at the Centre.

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee sent her representative Sudip Bandyopadhyay. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, his colleague Praful Patel; Samajwadi Party (SP) veteran Ramgopal Yadav; Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav’s son Tejaswi Yadav and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference were some of the other invitees to the Congress leader’s dinner. Mohammed Salim represented the CPI(M).

A surprise addition was Jitan Ram Manjhi of Bihar’s Hindustani Awam Morcha who recently quit the BJP-led front. Manjhi, who had once been installed as Chief Minister of Bihar by Nitish Kumar in his stead, was to be the BJP’s Dalit face in Bihar. But in the Assembly polls, the Dalit vote by and large voted against the BJP. Manjhi has since been redundant in the BJP and recently decided to switch sides.

The DMK too was invited although MK Stalin did not make the trip to Delhi. “Yes, he (Stalin) has been invited. But since the Assembly session in Tamil Nadu is starting on March 15, he is probably not going to be able to make it,” said a source.

Sonia Gandhi, who relinquished the post of Congress president, is continuing as the UPA Chairperson. On earlier occasions, too, she had reached out to the Opposition parties.

Of late, she has been in touch with them to forge a united front against the BJP. She has been maintaining that the BJP regime is a threat to the ideals of Indian republic. “Our country, our society, our freedoms — all are now under systematic and sustained assault. Make no mistake about it! This is a well-thought out project, long in the making, to refashion the very idea of India. It involves rewriting history, falsifying facts, slandering nation-builders and fanning prejudice and bigotry,” she had recently said at an event in Mumbai.

In the same function, she had also said that the coming together of all Opposition parties is a difficult task as “on some issues, we are opponents at the ground level.” She, however, said at the national level, a unity is possible. On the President and Vice President elections, too, Sonia Gandhi had tried to get the Opposition united.