Opposition Unity A Non-Starter?Are the opposition parties falling apart even before they united properly? Several instances have come to the fore in recent weeks that show that most opposition leaders are not on the same page. First, Mayawati broke off talks with the Congress in Chhattisgarh and aligned with Ajit Jogi. Then, Sharad Pawar dropped a bomb by saying that people do not doubt the intentions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Akhilesh Yadav of Samajvadi Party then chipped in by saying that the Congress should display a large-hearted approach by taking along parties opposed to the BJP if it wanted to have a united front. Finally, Mayawati announced that she was not going to have any truck with the Congress in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, states where assembly elections are due this year. Add to this the independent stand shown by KCR in Telengana, several statements against the Congress by Asaduddin Owaisi of the MIM, the intransigence of Jagan Reddy of YSR Congress and the picture is not very rosy for opposition unity.
By Sunil Garodia
The Congress, it seems, is not willing to yield much space to regional parties. Buoyed by its strong showing in Gujarat, Punjab and Karnataka and emboldened by the traction it is receiving on the social media, the party perhaps believes that it is going to win Rajasthan for sure, Madhya Pradesh in all likelihood and Chhattisgarh maybe. Hence, it is waiting for these elections to get over so that it can talk to these parties on its own terms. It believes that the 2014 disgrace of winning just 44 (which was just a few seats more than the likes of AIADMK and the TMC) seats was a nightmare that will not be repeated. On the other hand, the regional parties know that the Congress is now down. They do not want to provide it with the luxury of having a few more states under the belt before sitting for negotiations for 2019.
The Trinamool Congress, for one, is not likely to yield the leadership position to Rahul Gandhi so easily. With the Left totally decimated in West Bengal, the Congress in coma and the BJP not having taken off despite much noise, the party is sure of winning 40 seats out of the 42 in the state. It can even make a clean sweep. Hence, it knows that the Congress can be pressurized into yielding the top spot to Mamata Banerjee. If all else fails, Mamata is sure to raise the seniority issue.
The Congress, on the other hand, is relying on the new, improved avatar of its president Rahul Gandhi. Since he is aggressive and is attacking the government and Narendra Modi on all issues and is winning support in social media, the Congress thinks he is ready for the top job. But before that, Gandhi has to show his mettle by thrashing out a deal with the regional parties and bringing them on a common platform. The Congress has the advantage of having an all-India infrastructure and wide reach. Now it must recognize the fact that 2014 happened because just the UDA was not enough. If parties like SP, BSP, TMC, the Left and other smaller parties are not united with the Congress, it will be impossible to beat the BJP-led NDA, even if the Congress wins Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Especially in UP if the Congress does not get SP and BSP as allies, the BJP will again romp home with a huge number of seats and that will set the tone for the rest of the country.
Hence, before even thinking of becoming prime minister, Rahul Gandhi has to build a good team of negotiators, shed his self-importance and superior attitude and get down to some serious parleys with opposition leaders. In doing so, he must keep the premature euphoria over Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh aside. For, if he is not able to forge unity in opposition ranks, he will hand over the 2019 elections on a platter to Modi-Shah and his dream will be postponed by another five years.