Opposition bid to unite & meet BJP challenge

In the past the Congress took similar initiatives

(Kushal Jeena)

The efforts of top opposition leaders to bring all non-BJP parties on a common platform to give a direct fight to the ruling National Democratic Alliance have started bearing fruit as Congress and other regional outfits have agreed to formation of a broad front.

Senior leader of Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee have emerged as key interlocutors who geared up their efforts and successfully roped in leaders of regional parties who are not part of the ruling group.

The West Bengal chief minister who has been camping in the national capital for last four days held parleys not only with the leaders of opposition parties but also with those who are not omfortable within NDA like Ram Vilas Paswan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha and tried to persuade them to switch over to opposition side.

Unlike, previous occasions, the attempts to put in place a broad opposition alliance look different as all opposition leaders seem unanimous on the issue of the leader of selection of the proposed front as they have decided to address this crucial issue later. The leadership issue was put on the back-burner as some of the regional parties which are in a direct contest with the Congress in many states.

In the past the Congress took similar initiatives but by and large failed to impress upon some of the regional outfits that are still averse to coming together under its fold. This time they agreed to join because Congress is not leading it.

Besides, Congress, 130-year old party of the country and the largest among the opposition groups has also adopted a flexible approach on the leadership issue. The newly elected party President Rahul Gandhi in his address to the recently concluded plenary of the party echoed the sentiments saying the Congress is not adamant that being a largest party within the opposition alliance is a natural leader.

“The Congress party is prepared to make sacrifices required to defend the Constitution,” the political resolution passed at the plenary underlined.

This formulation outlined in the political resolution played a significant role in helping opposition leaders like Pawar, Chandrasekhar Rao and Banerjee to bring on board all non-NDA parties who were hesitant about the Congress taking up the leadership role of the upcoming opposition front.

It also brightened the prospects of other opposition leaders like Mamata, Pawar and Rao being projected as prime ministerial candidate of the opposition.

Precisely, for that reason Sharad Pawar took the lead and roped in Mamata Banerjee by sending his confident Praful Patel to Kolkata to hold initial talks with Mamata Banerjee. The meeting was a great success.

Pawar called a meeting of opposition leaders at his residence. The West Bengal chief minister was present at the meeting that laid the foundation of a new political front. The NCP leader who was earlier critical of Rahul Gandhi has now changed his views about him.

“The Congress president Rahul Gandhi has shown a willingness to learn and understand various issues. The Congress can pose a formidable challenge to BJP, as other parties are small,” Pawar said.

During her visit to Delhi, the West Bengal chief minister met Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, disgruntled BJP leaders and UPA chair person Sonia Gandhi, but avoided a similar meeting with the Congress president Rahul Gandhi keeping in view that both the Left parties and Congress are her opponents in West Bengal. Besides, she doesn’t want to give any foot-hold to the Left by meeting Rahul Gandhi.

Even as most of non-BJP parties have agreed to come together, the Left parties, which have been key factor in the past in the process of formation of any anti-BJP formulation look undecided as they cannot join any front that has Mamata Banerjee as one of its participants. In this scenario, there are chances that Left joins hands with UPA thereby creating a situation in post general elections in which UPA, Left and federal front come to an understanding to take on the BJP. However, the problem in West Bengal continues to remain unresolved as both Trinamool Congress and Left would put up their candidates against each other.

The senior Congress leaders don’t see this as a contentious issue because with the BJP is nowhere in picture in West Bengal and it hardly makes any difference whether Left wins or Mamata and for that matter Congress as they are all part of a broad anti-BJP alliance at the national level. Though the BJP did to make inroads in the West Bengal

With the move of unity among opposition parties gaining ground, some of the allies of ruling party front have also decided to come out against the working style of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a development of political significance that happened in the aftermath of BJP’s debacle in Parliamentary by-polls in Uttar Pradesh recently, the chief of Lok Janshakti Party Ramvilas Paswan, a constituent of ruling NDA called a meeting of all Dalit law makers where he asked the BJP to go for a course correction. In the political circle Paswan is considered to be the best judge about the fate of a government of which he is a part.

Similarly, the coming together of opposition parties has also boosted the morale of all those senior leaders.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi also had an informal meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and discussed the issue of reviving his party alliance with NCP in Maharashtra and also the contours of a possible united front of opposition parties to stem the rise of the BJP.

The left parties are also in favour of having a broad secular forum. The leader of the Communist Party of India Sudhakar Reddy said a one-on-one fight between the BJP-led NDA candidates versus a united opposition candidate is possible in many states.

However, Sita Ram Yechuri of the CPI (M) is of the view that any broad platform of opposition parties should first agree on a policy agenda as mere arithmetic of index of opposition unity may not work.

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