Monday, January 30, 2023

Too many challengers weakening the challenge

Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

The neo-convert to the anti-BJP camp Nitish Kumar now projecting himself as another leader to lead the opposition group. There were many others who projected themselves as the challenger to Narendra Modi, but couldn’t sustain that position. With a new challenger emerging at every conclave there is tussle at the top making the opposition pyramid to lose balance. Just as “too many cooks spoil the broth” too many challengers in the opposition camp is weakening the opposition. The latest opposition conclave on the eve of Devi Lal’s birth celebrations in Fatehbad can’t claim as success, as the earlier challengers to Modi, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajvadi Party are missing. In the absence of any explanation for their drop it is presumed that there is welcome to the new challenger Nitish Kumar. Every time a unity effort is made by leader on some pretext it is not the bonhomie at display but the schisms in the opposition parties got widened and distance between the leaders is growing.

  The intent to dethrone Narendra Modi from PM chair is there with the opposition parties but unanimity in the fighting way and leader to lead the challenge remained elusive. The positive buzz that was there in opposition camp early this year has got jarred. The reasons are many and obvious. The internal contradictions of the opposition parties and conflicting self-projection of the regional leaders are the primary reasons besides the tactical, retaliating political moves of the ruling BJP. The ruling party’s highly resourceful, tactical leadership combined with monetary resources is nicking the opposition unity at the bud stage itself. Congress is no more a cohesive party and the Rajasthan rebellion confirmed that. With ‘Congress Mukth’ almost achieved, the BJP is pinning down the regional leaders to sweat out to retain their own turf.

 The prime movers of opposition unity, at the time of putting up a common opposition sponsored candidate for country’s President, like Mamata Banerjee and KCR are now worried about their position in their respective states of Bengal and Telangana.  The regional parties are in trouble as their constant tune of “Centre using the CBI, ED to fix opposition” parties is no more accepted by voters after the exposures those agencies made and showed stacked currency notes, gold ornaments in live in Bengal. It became indefensible for Mamata and she almost called truce when she openly certified that “Narendra Modi is not vindictive politician”. The alleged involvement of KCR clan in the Delhi liquor scam is unfolding and it is giving jitters to the ruling TRS family and its close associates in Hyderabad. Moreover, KCR’s brand of politics are not to the liking of other regional parties and his dream of non-BJP, non-Congress front is unthinkable for leaders like Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav etc. Even DMK and its leader M.K. Stalin prefers Congress to be on their side. With CPM general secretary Seetaram Yechury endorsing space to Congress in opposition camp the one likes KCR and Mamata Banerjee lost the leadership.

  Seeing an opportunity to be the challenger to Narendra Modi, the Bihar CM Nitish Kumar suddenly realised all bad things about BJP and Modi’s administration and preferred to join hands with ‘jungle raj’ RJD and ‘corrupt’ Congress to be the visible face in opposition camp. His three day stay in national capital and meeting with opposition leaders claimed to have laid firm foundation for the opposition unity though the actual structure of that foundation is not visible. However each meet is generating good sound bites in the electronic media and helping the ‘ secular columnists’  to write speculative news but nothing is added on unity front. The old challengers are not on the scene, new facilitators are emerging and projecting as the glue to keep opposition camp together.

The marginalised Congress is trying to assert its primacy through Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi. Boyed by the initial response to the Yatra the Congress leaders turned assertive. The congress leader Jairam Ramesh statement accusing the regional parties “backstabbing the grand old party in the past to serve their own self-interest” and warning that “such parties should stop using the Congress as a punching bag” shows the extent of strained relations in the opposition camp. His warning that to the regional parties “not to live in fool’s paradise of opposition unity without the fulcrum of great old party” is indicate of the both frustration for its isolation in politics and also the attempt to regain its prominence at the national level. 

The Rajasthan rebellion engineered by its own trusted Ashok Gehlot, the projected chief of the party, is a huge set back to the Congress and it may take some time for the high command to come out of that shock given by a loyalist. Meanwhile the regional parties are sure to ridicule the leadership of Congress. Barring Nitish and Lalu no other regional leader is ready to do political business with a weakened party high command and drifting Congress party. The only regional party which has two states under its belt, the AAP is charting its own course hitting the prospects of Congress recovery in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Aravind Kejriwal the original challenger to Modi in 2014 is now hoping the opposition to sponsor him as the PM candidate and the seasoned politicians are not ready to concede the leadership who has not grown with them but made a successful lateral entry in to political leadership through a hijacked anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare. So the competition is intense despite the stakes being low,

The only assertive statetements are coming out from Bihar leadership. The newly formed bond of Nitish-Tejaswi is flexing saying that BJP is already wiped out in Bihar and it will be done at the national level in near future. They are talking about capturing 40 Lok Sabha seats of Bihar. Similar statement are emanating from other states where regional parties are strong. But what these leaders are calculating is based on the Mathematics of addition where as it is the Chemistry which matters in politics and that Chemistry is sadly missing among the opposition leaders and that is the bane.

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

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