Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 22:34:34


Updated: March 15, 2023 5:16 pm

The political tremors of North-East state election results are felt across the opposition camp leading to the collapse of unity edifice which was in construction for over a year. Seeds of suspicion among the opposition were self-sown.  The impact of the tremor and suspicion is the announcement of Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee  “going alone in 2024 elections and not joining any opposition alliance” . This is the harsh reaction to her loss in Bengal state by election. The Congress candidate in alliance with the CPM wrested that seat from TMC. Mamata, post result analysis, suspect that even BJP transferred its votes to defeat her party and that made her to announce withdrawal from the unity talks. Despite Congress wresting the seat from BJP in Maharashtra by election, retaining the seat in Tamil Nadu, and defeating TMC in Bengal it couldn’t celebrate the victory as got decimated in North-East followed by the ‘Mamata bomb’ lobbed at them.

Raipur plenary has not given the expected boost to the Congress party. Its failure to cash on the popularity built through the Bharat Jodo yatra and sincere attempt of Rahul Gandhi to erase his ‘pappu’ image is a setback for the party. Mani Shankar Aiyar, the loud mouthed Congress leader whose words always hurt the party rather than help it, prior to the plenary said that “attention would be focused on the grand strategy for the general elections”. He further conceded the party’s weakness in taking on saffron forces alone and suggested the strategy of “stooping to conquer” by not asserting its primacy as a national party so as to facilitate a gravitation towards a ‘mahaghata bandhan’. He was hopeful of repeating the post-election UPA formation of 2004 by avoiding the naming of prime ministerial candidate from opposition.  Though his suggestions are sensitive, the Congress party has never taken Mani Shankar seriously earlier and Raipur plenary is no different. The Congress party is not willing to give away not only its supremacy position in national politics but also the exalted position of Nehru inheritors in decision making. Those two uncompromising ideas of the Congress are the main hurdles in unity. Congress never expected rout in North-East and now bets on Karnataka to save its face. Though the media reports suggest an anti-BJP situation in Karnataka, the same media points out the divided Congress hurting itself the chance of winning.

Already the opposition parties are divided on the way they deal with the Congress. Mamata Banerjee (TMC), KCR (BRS) and Aravind Kejriwal (AAP) are the three strong leaders who are against place for Congress under the opposition umbrella. They together have influence in near 80 Lok Sabha seats. The other group of regional parties are the strong pro-Congress namely DMK (M.K. Stalin), JDU (Nitish Kumar), RJD (Yadav clan- Lalu, Tejaswi), JMM (Hemant Soren) and Udhav faction of Siva Sena who together can give fight to BJP in around 100 seats.

The third group is an opportunistic group which don’t wish to concede political space to Congress in their respective strongholds but are ready to join hands with the Congress in power sharing. The NCP in Maharashtra, JDS in Karnataka, SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh come under the category. Those parties have presence in less than 80 seats. The Left parties also come under this group though their presence is minimal outside Kerala. The last category comprises Naveen Patnaik (BJD of Odisha) and Y.S. Jaganmohana Reddy (YSRCP of Andhra Pradesh) for whom their personal/state issues are paramount than identification with a camp.

This leaves the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisghad, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand where Congress takes on BJP in near 90 seats. It is in these seats where Congress should improve its representation in the Lok Sabha. Barring Chattisghad, the Congress is not that confident of not only gaining number to mprove its current tally of 56.

Ignoring the reality of strength, the Congress project, unilaterally, as fulcrum of opposition unity and even dreaming of government formation with their own leader as the Prime Minister. The political resolution at the Raipur plenary said that it will adopt a central role and will go all out in identifying and mobilizing likeminded parties to challenge BJP. However the situation as it develop after the North-East rout may not allow Congress centric unity. The failure of Congress to transfer its voters to CPM candidates in Tripura assembly elections despite their pro-poll alliance is pointed by Left leaders. With this bad experience of CPM, the other regional parties are wary of joining hands with Congress. Majority of the regional parties were born on anti-Congress ideology or branched out of Congress as some of the leaders who were not allowed to grow under the burdened family. Having developed their own identity and enjoying political independence those regional bosses are unlikely to help the Congress to get some foot hold in their strong holds. They all know what the Congress leaders are capable of doing once they cross 100 seats in Lok Sabha and assume UPA leadership. They are more comfortable to fight BJP alone in their home front and are not interested in having strong Congress in Delhi which is of no help for them in their state level fights.

So the Congress is the fulcrum as well as obstacle for the opposition unity. Unless the Congress leaders shed their political arrogance and take the initiative to open the talks with regional bosses and start conceding political space, even grudgingly, there is no way unity talks will fructify.  The goal, dethrone BJP and replace Modi, is clear but the way to achieve the goal is hazy. Unless the unity vision becomes clear what the non-BJP parties can show to the voters is a mirage of unity.


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