In stark contrast to the BJP’s balance of fortunes, the Opposition parties are yet to see eye to eye with each other, sink their differences and come together to put up a united front
Of late, it has been noticed that when polls are around the corner in our country, and the anxiety bug bites the contestants, the resultant scenario provides a conducive environment to the Opposition parties to nurture an occasional delusion of unity. It happens because the need for unification dawns on all those who oppose the ruling party. Moreover, the outline of the proposed alliance, no matter how blurry, seen through the haze of uncertainty of politicking, infuses them with false hope and confidence. After all, isn’t politics an art of making the impossible possible?
Why a United Front?
Having already tasted blood in the Bihar and Karnataka polls by forming unscrupulous alliances, Opposition parties are baying for more. As the Lok Sabha elections are much more bitterly fought than the Assembly polls, as well as on a much larger canvas, the rival parties are keen to join forces and present a united opposition to challenge the BJP-led NDA, instead of each one fighting on its own. This is happening despite the temptation of the alluring prospects of hogging the glory all on their own if they fight and win the elections on their own strength.
Talks for Coalition
With the 2019 general elections not being far away, the Opposition parties have started sounding cocky rather than forlorn, which is the real state of mind they are currently in. They are convinced more than the ruling party that the next round of parliamentary polls poses an existential threat for them. Hence, they know that they must unite or perish. Unity is not to be mistaken for a merger of parties on ideological lines, sinking the current differences. That seldom happens in India where parties, with the rare exception of a few ideological ones, are run like the fiefdom of strong power-thirsty patriarchs around whom self-serving minions rally to make the parties numerically strong.
The unity that is being talked about is but the piecing together of a ragtag coalition, to collectively take potshots from a common platform at the ruling party. To this end, there have been rounds and rounds of talks between regional satraps and national non-entities about a Grand Coalition (GC). The Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Communist Party of India are some of the leading parties, which have pitched in at the talks. Each of these parties and the other potential allies have floated their own balloon of unity, not unlike a vain peacock showing off its colourful feathers on hearing the first strains of a thunder yonder.
Stuck to Drawing Board
The prospective partners of the proposed grand coalition (GC) or Mahagathbandhan claim they are endowed with a gifted leader of their own, capable of leading not only the mega-alliance but the nation too as the Prime Minister. Every single one of them is convinced that its own PM candidate is the chosen one endowed with sterling leadership qualities. Leading the pack are Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, with Tejasvi Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Deve Gowda and at least half a dozen others bringing up the rear. The ultimate objective of the GC is to remove Narendra Modi, whom they have declared the number one enemy, from the Prime Minister’s post at any cost.
The strategy is simple and straight: accuse Narendra Modi of corruption, being anti-poor and anti-Dalit, favouring ‘corporate cronies’ and siding with the saffron outfits to the detriment of secularism and vilify his image. Tactics include provoking Modi and his party into making false moves and fall into the trap. The escape route too has been well thought out. In case, the strategy backfires, then blame it on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the ‘undeclared emergency’ prevailing in the country.
With the game plan and roadmap firmly in place and several leaders keen and ready to become the chosen one to lead the nation, the constituents think that the yet-to-take-shape GC is poised to take the country by storm and capture the reins of power. All it has to do is to sweep the polls and oust the enemy. However, here we need to remember that the current milieu is too vacuous for its very formation. In short, talk of unity and victory continues to remain confined, or should we say stuck, to the drawing board!
Following the repeated assertion of Rahul Gandhi that he is ready to be the next PM, Mayawati has rebuffed the Congress offer of a lesser number of seats than her party’s due share at the forthcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. She has voiced her party’s determination to fight the elections in MP and Rajasthan on its own rather than compromise on her self-respect. She has already entered into a coalition with Ajit Jogi’s party for the Assembly polls in Chattisgarh.
She has further announced that she is the best Prime Ministerial candidate of them all, and is loved by the people; and that BSP would have no truck with Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. With the ebullient BSP opting out, the GC has already suffered a serious setback even before its formation. Now it remains to be seen if the Congress Party will go out of the way to placate Mayawati and play second fiddle to BSP.
If Mayawati has renounced outright the terms of Congress for an electoral tie-up in two states on the pretext of her party not being prepared to compromise its self-respect (read not wanting to give up its supremacy in the proposed GC), Akhilesh Yadav has his own plans too. Having already had a bitter experience of aligning with a Congress of waning fortunes in the UP Assembly polls in 2017, he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about another electoral alignment with that party.
Akhilesh has passed the onus of hammering out the GC to the Congress Party. He interceded the quibbling for seats between the Congress and the BSP by asking the former to show, as the principal partner, its magnanimity and accommodate the latter’s demand for more seats. He has further stated that the delay on the part of the Congress in finalising the seat apportionment would lead to like-minded parties individually deciding their own separate plans. In short, SP may most probably go the BSP way.
Although the Telugu Desam Party and the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, which were BJP’s NDA allies in the 2014 elections and for some years thereafter, have quit the coalition and another ally Shiv Sena is showing restiveness, the BJP has done a commendable job of keeping the rest of its brood together. Furthermore, the Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and TRS do not seem to be averse to doing business with the NDA. In stark contrast to the BJP’s balance of fortunes, the Opposition parties are yet to see eye to eye with each other, sink their differences and come together to put up a united front. Whether a grand coalition could trounce the BJP and its allies in the polls or not is a bridge that needs to be crossed only when the Opposition succeeds in breathing life into the comatic Mahagathbandhan. Till then, the talk of a united opposition is nothing more than a bugbear aimed to unnerve the ruling party.
(The article The Bugbear of a United Opposition is published in ‘Organiser’ )