Amid efforts to form a Third Front, several regional parties including Left, JD(U), AIADMK, BJD and UPA ally NCP today came together at a convention here with their leaders pitching for unity among them to defeat the "threat" from fascist and communal forces.
JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appeared to target BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as he said some leaders go after those who oppose their views or ideologies and talk about "cleansing" them.
Addressing the 'Convention against Communalism', he said the 17 parties assembled at the meet should forge "maximum possible unity" to defeat the threat from "fascism, communalism and terrorism" to the country.
"The question being asked is that if this convention means formation of a new front. As of today, this is not the case. But we all have to think that in the face of fascism, communalism and terrorism, democratic forces should maintain maximum possible unity on issues to combat and defeat such powers," he said.
Kumar said that in the aftermath of riots in UP's Muzaffarnagar, there has been a realisation about the need to raise voice against the threat of communalism.
The convention, organised by the Left parties, is being seen as an attempt for forge a conglomerate of non-Congress and non-BJP parties ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party is in power in UP, said Muzaffarnagar riots were fomented by communal forces.
"At least we got together (on the same platform). If we unite, communal forces will not able to raise their head...We have crushed communal forces and we will continue to crush communal forces whenever they rear there head again," he said.
Yadav's colleague Ram Gopal Yadav said today's meeting was a "beginning" for the shape of things to come in the future.
NCP leader Praful Patel justified the party's participat on in the convention, saying "in the era of coalition politics, we have to keep our options open of working with other parties." Besides Kumar and Mulayam Singh Yadav, the convention was attended by CPI(M) leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, NCP's D P Tripathi, JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda, AIADMK's M Thambidurai and CPI's A B Bardhan.
Nitish Kumar said some leaders say 'chun chun kar saaf karo' (resort to cleansing). What kind of language is this? In a democracy, you win elections by defeating others. But why use phrases like cleansing others?"
Hitting out at Modi, the Bihar Chief Minister said everyone needs development but the model of development is important.
"A choice has to be made between models which favour corporate houses or inclusive models which focusses on the development of common man," the JD(U) leader said.
He said non-inclusive models which do not care for the poor and the weaker sections cannot suceed while models with emphasis on human development would have a stronger foundation.
In yet another salvo at Modi, Kumar said there are forces in the country which do not tolerate dissent.
In this context, he said there have been efforts to malign nobel laureate Amartya Sen after he had praised work done in Bihar.
Kumar, in an apparent attack on VHP, said people were taking out "untimely" religious processions and yatras in an attempt to "raise passions and create divisions".
The Bihar Chief Minister went on to caution the media also, saying it can report freely only in a democracy.
Yadav said, "I have been a victim of communal forces but in UP we have given them a befitting reply."
Referring to Muzaffarnagar riots, he said the loss of lives was regrettable but his party had tried to ensure that muslims were not demoralised.