By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
The Bharat Bandh called by Samyukthaaa Kisan Morcha to repeal the farm laws and supported by entire spectrum of non-BJP parties passed of peacefully evoking mixed and lukewarm response in the country barring Delhi, Punjab and Haryana the epicenters of the farmers’ agitation. Perhaps this is the only day where opposition parties exhibited united face. The other proposed 10 day protest program against Modi governance, a call given by Congress was a damp squib and that made the cracks visible. Even Congress apparently gave up its protest program as its first family left for Shimla for a holiday. Opposition parties have lost the confidence in the Congress leadership and are charting their own path in fighting BJP and Modi. Strong regional player’s changed mood is because of arrogant family centric leadership of Congress which believes in their birth right and the political immaturity exhibited by the hereditary controllers of the party.
The opposition unity is the need of the hour to take on BJP and the northern state assembly elections are the test case for stitching such unity. The initiation taken by the victorious Mamata Banerjee should have been appreciated by the Congress and allowed her to be the challenger to Modi. But even before Mamata’s Delhi visit impacted smaller parties Sonia Gandhi, worried over her son’s future in politics, made her entry calling for virtual meet and 17 parties including TMC attended. Unfortunately Rahul Gandhi thought that it was the approval for his leadership and flexed his muscle in the Congress party affairs along with his sister Priyanka created mess in Punjab. A senior of many battles Capt. Amarinder Singh was humiliatingly sent out while picking up the SC vote bank theory of Indira Gandhi. He further went on to promise similar offer to SC community for CM post in Uttarakhand if voted to power and with Jignesh Mevani’s certain entry into Congress the same SC card will be in play in Gujarat too. These decisions of Rahul Gandhi has predictive reaction from Mayavati, who thinks that she is the sole owner of SC vote bank. She announced her decision not to allay with any formation that has Congress in it. Thus Rahul’s initiative went against the unity of opposition for which all other parties are trying. His handling of Kerala unit has resulted Congress leaders defecting to CPM and Congress-Left relations getting strained at Delhi level.
Seeing this maverick politics of Rahul Gandhi and Congress the opposition leaders started counter attacking Congress. These attacks which primarily targeted at Congress have moved to internal tussle among the other parties thus hitting at building the platform for opposition unity. The sharpest attack came from Sharad Pawar of NCP when he said that “the congress is behaving like a impoverished landlord who lost all his lands and who can’t even look after his house anymore” followed by the TMC’s comment on Congress as a “rotting puddle”. The criticism of Pawar that “the Congress leaders were very sensitive and not open to any suggestions” and “inexperienced Gandhi siblings” comment by Captain Amarinder Singh the senior Congress leader has confirmed the pulling of unity fabric in different directions by the opposition.
As Sharad Pawar started asserting the Siva Sena got agitated as they knew the capability of Pawar to manipulate things to his advantage. So the Sena leader Anant Geete, former Union minister who lost his Raighad seat to NCP in 2019, choose to call Pawar as a “well known back stabber who stabbed Congress earlier and who will not hesitate to stab any other party for his personal gain and that Sena leader’s statement that current coalition of Sena, NCP, Congress in the form of Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra is “a just an adjustment”. Coupled with this the latest statement of CM of Maharashtra Uddav Thackeray “BJP leaders are our future friends” reveal that all is not well in the relations of NCP and Siva Sena.
The crux of the problem for opposition unity is that no regional party wants the Congress to recover in the state where that particular regional party is in dominance. Thus TMC dislike the recovery of Congress in Bengal and its expansion in to Tripura and Assam is happening at the expense of Congress. Both SP and BSP, the two dominant parties in UP, wish to see Congress at the bottom among the contestants. AAP which overthrew Congress in Delhi is planning to replace Congress in Punjab, Goa, Gujarat and Haryana as the challenger for BJP. RJD the main opposition party in Bihar is not ready to give up its dominant position though its patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav is close to Sonia Gandhi. DMK which came to power after 10 years wish to consolidate its position by eliminating AIADMK but it is not open to Congress demand for help in its revival in that southern state. TDP, YSRCP wish to see power fight between them in Andhra Pradesh and TRS, in Telangana, is not ready to join hands with Congress at national level. Regional parties of Jammu& Kashmir lost space to BJP in Jammu area and are now restricted to the valley and they can’t offer any help to Congress.
With such dominating regional interests and clashes in base ideology the talk of unity in the opposition under the leadership of Congress is becoming a mirage. Since the consolidation of their own parties in their areas becoming prominent the parties the building up of anti BJP platform is turning out to be secondary. Hence the opposition unity structure is developing cracks even before it is given shape. Unless opposition shows some urgency in cementing those cracks prior to the 2022 elections for the state assemblies and gain some positive results it will be tough task to challenge BJP in 2024. One more term for Modi and BJP means it is end for many parties more so for Congress. Is there anyone in opposition understanding this impending political dessimation.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)