CONGRESS MUKT OPPOSITION FRONT
Congress Mukth Bharat was the slogan of BJP since 2014 elections. Though that goal was not achieved in its totality the BJP could push the Congress to into opposition in many states. Now, the regional parties which are rattled with the electoral success of BJP in four northern states are firm in seeing that Congress is not given a place even in the opposition front thus building a Congress Mukth politics at the national level. Whether the regional party leaders can achieve that or not is different point but such an attempt itself is pushing the Congress to a status of ‘political untouchable’.
In the recent assembly elections in five states barring AamAadmi Party (AAP) all other regional parties received a drubbing. The political ambitions of regional party leaders plummeted. That gave the feel of invincibility for BJP and Narendra Modi spoke with the confidence of hat trick victory in 2024. To meet the challenge of BJP in power in 2024 and beyond the opposition parties have to reposition the strategy to stop the juggernaut of Modi-Shah combination.
Prior to the election results of five states, the regional parties had a great hope of forming a challenging front. Series of meetings were on in different state capitals regarding the formation of un-named front under the unspecified leader. Whether it is KCR of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) or Mamata Banerjee of Trinamul Congress (TMC) or M.K. Stalin of DMK it is all high spirited speeches and actions as all of them were hoping victory for Akhilesh Yadav of SP in Uttar Pradesh heralding the decline of the BJP. Their assessment of abated ‘Modihava’ proved misplaced as the verdict of the four states proved. Their confidence is further shattered with the massive mandate for AAP which was not in their umbrella of informal forum of regional parties. Other troubling thing was the decimation of Congress in all the states including Punjab where it was in power. The history of third front government in India was always with the support of Congress as the pan-India Congress was always winning 100 to 150 seats, giving strength to the national level political ambitions of the regional party leaders. Post 2014 elections, the Congress influence was confined to less than 100 seats. In such a situation the third front government can become reality with all the regional parties wins all the Lok Sabha seats in their respective states and such a situation may not be that easy. In Such a possible scenario the regional parties may have no option but go back to new strategy board to take on BJP.
Till the recent election results
of five states there were more than two thoughts in the regional parties. One group like DMK has alliance with Congress in Tamil Nadu and have faith in Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. The other group like the NCP and Siva Sena, who are already in coalition with the Congress in Maharashtra, wish to continue their political business with the Congress on the condition that Rahul Gandhi is away from leadership. The third group led by TMC for whom Congress is a not at all acceptable as a political partner. In fact Mamata Banerjee has claimed TMC as the real Congress and gave a call to the congressmen to join her party to fight BJP, thus closing all the options for the Nehru dynasts in the prospective opposition alliance. Since her victory in Bengal assembly elections Mamata Banerjee started believing herself as attaining the unquestionable place of challenger to Modi. There is other group of regional parties like TRS (Telangana), JDS (Karnataka), YSRCP (Andhra Pradesh) who are political fence sitters whose opposition to Congress runs hot and cold depending on the situation. Even the JMM of Jharkhand which is running coalition government with Congress, though not specified its stand in the changed atmosphere, may not like to concede not many seats to that national party in the 2024 elections. Like many other regional parties JMM may also wish to large number of available seats in the state so that they can have a better role in the Front and also demand its share in the ministry formation and portfolio allotment.
As the time approaches for the next round of parliamentary elections, which many feel much earlier than the scheduled early 2024, the regional parties will be forced to be more cautious in formulating its national ambitions. The BJP fresh from the four state victories has already announced its ambition and strategy for the next elections. Narendra Modi emphasized his ambition to end the hereditary political leadership which BJP feels is detrimental for the democratic politics. Outwardly it may seem to have targeted at Congress and Nehru dynasts but it was actually meant to attack the regional parties which are all family lead parties run as private limited companies where the close family members are the decision takers on all aspects of party and government. BJP not only started preparations to retain the power in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh which goes to polls at the end of the year but also announced its intention to focus on Telangana and Andhra Pradesh where the regional parties are in power. The preparation of BJP to go to early polls in Karnataka is in full swing as it wishes to cash the hijab judgment and Kashmir Files cinema generated patriotic fervor. Barring BJD of Odisha no other regional party are confident in facing the elections in the backdrop of the BJP juggernaut in display in the north. The coalition bond of MahaAghadi in Maharashtra is now suspect. The BJP’s aggressive mood, say either in enacting the anti-conversion Laws in state of after state or coming out with aggressive pro-Hindu agenda like making Bhagvat Gita compulsory subject in Gujarat, is very clear.
With the intentional aggression of BJP the defense of their own political territory becomes the primary importance to the regional players. The regional parties will be compelled to guard their Lok Sabha seats with all their sentimental regional slogans and appeals leaving the Congress also a national party in the lurch. Without the cooperation of the regional parties the Congress is not in a position to win seats on its own. Without the ‘regional crèches’ for support the Congress may further shrink.
In the likely scenario, the Congress Mukth Bharat slogan of BJP will turn into Congress Mukth Opposition call of the regional parties by next round of Lok Sabha elections.
By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao