Saturday, September 30, 2023

No I.N.D.I.A in the States

Himalayan Paths

Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

The non-BJP alliance, now named INDIA, seems to be more, as the day for their third and important conclave approaches, strong in number and week in chemical bonding. The approach among those parties is apparently INDIA is aimed at throwing out Narendra Modi at the national level and not for the fight against BJP at the state level. As the D day draws closure to the assembly elections in four major states-Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisghar and Telangana- the disarray among the leaders and their parties is visible. The proposed Mumbai meet this month end is certainly not going to be as homily as it was in the earlier meets in Patna and Bangalore. The unresolved issue of who should be the convener of INDIA is going to be the hindrance for the next moves, despite the declared agenda of sheet sharing and logo design of alliance, at the Mumbai meet. The problem with the top leaders of different political parties is their firm belief that the person who gets the convener post today will automatically become the PM candidate after the election results in 2024. Hence the resolve to grab the position now itself and then lead the opposition in campaign as the challenger to Modi.

Nitish Kumar, CM of Bihar and JDU leader, has firmly fixed his eyes on convener post of INDIA and it is open secret and it is equally in the open that Nitish Kumar’s partner in the Bihar government, RJD and its resurrected leader, still a convict on bail, is not happy at such a prospect of Nitish’s ascendency in opposition camp. It is to the credit of Nitish that Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and AAP leader and Delhi CM were roped into INDIA alliance. Earlier those three leaders were towing the boat of non-BJP-non-Congress boat floated by the BRS leader and Telangana CM KCR. With non on the board KCR is pulling his BRS alone and struggling to do so.

That RJD leadership is not for Nitish convenorship is evident in their guarded statements. Lalu Prasad Yadav, at present, is non-committal on Nitish candidature, though at one time RJD thought of pushing Nitish out of Bihar politics by supporting his national ambition. It was RJD’s ploy to capture the CM post back by Lalu family. Tejaswi Yadav, the younger son of Lalu, currently deputy CM is billed to take over the CM chair. But that idea is abandoned by Lalu as such an elevation of younger son is likely to split his party through a rebellion of elder son Tej Pratap Yadav. Eldest son Tej is not happy at his name being ignored for deputy CM and is ready to strike. His rebellious mood is reflected in his unilateral decision to change park in Patna named after former PM and BJP leader Vajpayee. The praise Nitish heaped on late Vajpayee on his birth day on August 12 in the very park triggered the venting of dissent by Tej Pratap. Thus Nitish, faced with stiff opposition from RJD to his leadership in INDIA, is reportedly keeping all his options including going back to NDA.

The other tall leader in INDIA who is confusing the opposition camp is Sharad Pawar.  His insistence even three days prior to the Mumbai conclave of opposition parties that his nephew Ajit Pawar is their party leader and there is no split in his party is rather confusing the INDIA camp. The Ajit Pawar has taken away 40 MLAs with him and took the post of Deputy CM of Maharashtra along with eight other colleagues as ministers. Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar had secret conclaves and Ajit Pawar reportedly asking his uncle to end his association with INDIA and join hands with BJP and get suitable rewards both in position and kind. Sharad Pawar, even after formation of INDIA, has shared dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to present him Lokmanya Tilak award in Pune, despite Congress asking him not appear along with Modi. Sharad Pawar as is his wont plays his cards very close to his chest and may not mind the label of traitor if he gets suitable political rehabilitation offer from BJP.

The two states, Bihar and Maharashtra, together send 104 Lok Sabha members and cracks in the unity of INDIA in those states is not a good omen to the non-BJP camp. As of now West Bengal CM and TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee is not so vocal in the opposition unity talks as she is besieged with her own problems in the state. Her ambition to be the PM candidate from the opposition is no secret and unless she is offered the convener post Mamata may not participate enthusiastically in INDIA matters.

AAP and Kejriwal have separate agenda of political expansion. It entered Chattisghar directly and is sure to enter the fray both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The AAP, which joined INDIA on one condition of Congress opposing the Delhi ordinance is not ready to allow a comeback to Congress. Kejriwal insists that Congress should give up its idea of contesting the Delhi and Punjab seats during the Lok Sabha elections. AAP is likely contest in MP and Rajasthan just as SP is contesting in MP. Akhilesh Yadav has already announced his party’s candidates in constituencies of MP bordering UP. Entry of SP in over dozen seats in Madhya Pradesh means a loss of that many seats for Congress in the coming elections.

The INDIA group members are apparently not interested in cooperation at the state level but are positioning for bargain in the Lok Sabha seats in their strongholds. Thus AAP and SP are concerned with number of Lok Sabha seats they can grab from Congress and is not ready project INDIA as a Congress led one. On the other hand the Congress strategists is preferring a situation where every senior leader feels that he has a chance to be the challenger for Modi and do their best to win maximum number of seats in their states. This fluid politics of Congress are not to the liking of Nitish Kumar as he feels that absence of a firm convener tag from INDIA partners he is likely to lose his grip in Bihar. Congress on the other hand wish to cash the clash of regional leaders’ high ambitions and squeeze in Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate of INDIA.

It is with such a suspicious minds and independent agendas clashing with one other that all the 26 non-BJP parties are heading to Mumbai conclave and the outcome, as things stand, may not be so pleasant for the INDIA members and plausible outcome is to meet again this time in Jaipur.

(Author is retired professor. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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