Opposition Still In Disarray To Counter Modi-Led BJP

While the Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to placate its sulking partners and finalized alliances with them well ahead of the upcoming seven-phase Lok Sabha polls, the dates for which were announced on March 10, opposition parties are still struggling to sink their differences and build a strong coalition to take on a resurgent BJP.

This is despite the fact that there is a sense of urgency in the opposition camp about the need to put their house in order as the BJP has a distinct political advantage over it after the Pulwama attack and the subsequent air strikes launched by India on terror camps in Pakistan.

As the biggest component of the opposition bloc, having a pan-India presence, the Congress is under pressure to demonstrate greater flexibility in forging alliances with regional parties, especially in view of the changed political scenario. Both Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N.Chandrababu Naidu had recently urged Congress president Rahul Gandhi to sort out outstanding issues with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Aam Admi Party in Delhi. Besides these two states, the other trouble spot for the Congress is the politically-crucial state of Uttar Pradesh which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Though the Pulwama attack has led to a rethink among the opposition leaders about alliances, they are still reluctant to cede space to each other as they see this as an opportunity to drive the best possible bargain in seat-sharing negotiations. In some cases, disputes between parties have come in the way of sealing a partnership and in other instances, resistance from within the ranks has stalled the formation of an opposition alliance.

Well aware that the pressure is on the Congress to accommodate its smaller partners, regional parties are playing hardball. Even parties like the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar have negotiated hard to get the maximum number of seats from the Congress.

While the Congress has sealed an electoral pact in Karnataka, the party backed off from an alliance with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party in Delhi. The AAP leadership was keen on a partnership but the Congress party’s local unit did not favour an alliance with Kejriwal as it has not forgiven him for leading a campaign against the United Progressive Alliance government which eventually led to its humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Besides this trust deficit, the two parties were unable to arrive at a satisfactory seat-sharing formula. The AAP was not willing to give more than two of the seven Delhi Lok Sabha seats to the Congress but the grand old party wanted three which was not agreeable to Kejriwal. As a quid pro quo, the AAP wanted the Congress to accommodate it in Punjab and Haryana. This was not acceptable to the Congress which believes it can ill-afford to part with seats in these two states where it can do well on its own.

Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the two big challenges before the Congress. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav have set aside their old rivalry and forged an alliance for the Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh. It has set aside three seats for the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal and two for the Congress. Angry over this unilateral announcement, the Congress declared that it would contest all the 80 seats in the state and then followed it up by roping in Priyanka Gandhi to manage party affairs in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Post-Pulwama, Akhilesh Yadav is said to have realized that a split in the anti-BJP votes would end up helping the saffron party and has been in touch with Congress leaders about a possible understanding. However, Mayawati is adamant about not doing any business with the Congress. The BSP chief fears that the Congress can disturb her Dalit support base and she does not want to provide an opportunity to the Congress to revive itself in a state where it has been reduced to a bit player.

Moreover, Mayawati nurses Prime Ministerial ambitions. Unlike other regional players like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati’s support base is not confined to one state as she believes she has the potential to tap into the Dalit sentiment across the country. Mayawati may be over-estimating her strength, given that her vote share has been on a decline over the years, but this has not stopped her from making a pitch for the top slot. In any case, she would not like to facilitate Rahul Gandhi’s ascent to power.

If Mayawati is proving to be a tough customer, it is not any easier to do business with the feisty Trinamool Congress chief  Mamata Banerjee. Like Mayawati, the West Bengal chief minister also has national ambitions. But unlike the BSP supremo, the Trinamool Congress chief has acknowledged that all opposition parties need to put up a united fight to battle the BJP. However, there is no clarity about how she plans to move ahead in that direction.

A little over a month ago, Mamata Banerjee declared that she was willing to align with the Congress and the Left parties at the national level to defeat the BJP. But at the same time, she said they would also compete against each other in the state. The Trinamool chief has suggested that the combined opposition field one candidate on each seat from a party which is best placed to defeat the BJP. However, others are not taken up with this idea. The West Bengal unit of the Congress has vehemently opposed an understanding with the Trinamool Congress as the two parties are locked in a bitter battle in the state.  

At the same time, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has offered a seat-sharing formula to the Congress in West Bengal. It has proposed that the two parties mutually agree not to fight each other in the six Lok Sabha seats currently held by the Congress and the Left party. However, the Congress is quibbling over the Raiganj constituency which was won by the CPM last time. Clearly, the opposition parties have a long distance to cover before they can iron out these glitches and be seen as a serious challenger to the BJP-led alliance. But with the general election round the corner, they do not have the luxury of time to sort out their differences. The disarray in the opposition camp stands out as a sharp contrast to the BJP which is far more organized and battle-ready for the upcoming all-important election.


#MyVote2019 – 'Oppn Rising Against Modi'

Lovely Parmar, 55, senior nurse, in Greater Noida, Delhi-NCR   I can see that the Opposition is giving Prime Minister Narendra Modi a tough time of late and I am quite happy about that. A strong opposition strengthens democracy. Yet, my personal choice for the post of Prime Minster is Modiji. He should be given a second term to implement his vision. Rahul Gandhi needs more self-belief if he wants to be taken seriously by people. I like how decisive Modiji is and feel he is the kind of leader we have always needed. However, if he gets elected for a second term in office, he shouldn’t repeat the mistake of introducing one major reform after another. People need breathing space between big decisions like demonetisation and GST and they should be given time to adjust to huge and sudden changes like these. About the last-minute decision of this government to bring 10 per cent quota for economically weak sections, read upper castes, it is too early to comment. Yes, I feel economically weaker families everywhere, irrespective of caste, creed or faith, must be helped to build themselves up. But how much this late decision will prove electorally beneficial for BJP is a gamble. My family and I personally didn’t suffer much during demonetisation. In my family there is a financial transparency and no one hides their savings or expenses from one another. A major chunk of the sufferers during demonetisation were women who had hidden their savings from their families. I know it is a necessity in many cases, but I am glad Modiji made people more financially aware. Having said that I don’t think he should try something like this ever again if he comes to power. It’s not that I don’t like Congress. I do. In fact, at the beginning of my career in the medical field, I was assigned VIP duty and had the privilege of meeting Rajiv Gandhi in person. But the charm, the silent leadership, the smile he brought on everyone’s faces, his magnetism is missing in both Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. I prefer Modiji because he has instilled a sense of seriousness in people. The chalta hai attitude has been replaced in many a government office, and people are now more punctual as well as more serious with their work. Government banks now co-operate better with common people. Most businesses have gone online, which make it easier for working women like me, who otherwise needed to stand in line or spend precious time away from work for every little errand. I feel next time, before announcing a big reform, he should allay people’s fears, rather than trying to do damage control after a reform. Basically he should let people know that he has thought things through and cares for them and is not being impulsive. His cabinet should also speak as one, rather than different people giving different reasons for why a particular step was taken, like happened in the case of demonetisation (the goalposts kept changing. Sometimes it was to curb terrorism, sometime to remove black money from the system, sometimes to give a push to cashless transactions…). I like the dynamism and the optimism in Modiji’s personality and his no-nonsense attitude. Under his leadership, no one can afford to take India lightly on the international stage anymore. Though the Modi government’s silence on incidents of lynchings and other human rights issue must be changed in his second term in office. It will be a more secure government then. (The narrator requested not to share her picture online. LokMarg has used a representational image)]]>

'Dui Hazaar Unneesh (2019), BJP Fineesh'

Dui hazaar uneesh, BJP fineesh (In 2019, the BJP will be finished),” Banerjee, who invited the leaders of the opposition parties as well as Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to her January 19 rally in Kolkata, told reporters. Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of efforts to rally opposition parties for an anti-BJP front, spent the second day of her Delhi visit meeting leaders of various parties including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Besides leaders of the Congress, TDP, YSR(Congress), DMK, RJD, SP and JD(S), she also met BJP veteran L K Advani, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and dissident BJP leaders. The rally is seen as not just a show of opposition unity but also an attempt to catapult Banerjee to the centrestage. “We are all for all. We will take a decision on collective leadership. If all opposition political parties can join hands and work together in Parliament, then why not fight unitedly outside,” the TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister told reporters after her nearly half-an-hour long meeting with the Gandhis at 10, Janpath, the residence of Sonia Gandhi. On the Congress’ indication of its willingness to accept her candidature as opposition’s PM face, she said, “I am not for any chair, our aim is to defeat the BJP.” Almost all the opposition parties are holding preliminary talks to put a united fight against the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls next year. Banerjee said she met both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and discussed the NRC issue as 40 lakh people have not been included in it and genuine voters had been kept out. “We discussed the political situation. We discussed how the opposition can together take on the BJP because it knows that it will not come back to power,” she said. Asked about the prime ministerial candidate of the proposed anti-BJP front, she said, “it will be decided later. The first priority is to defeat the BJP. The BJP has to be defeated first.” To a query on Amit Shah’s criticism of her on the NRC issue, she said, “I am not his servant. Why should I reply to his comments.” “Gali ka jawaab hum gaali se nahin denge. Yeh hamari parampara hai. (We will not reply to an abuse with an abuse, that is our tradition),” she said. “The BJP is scared and nervous politically due to the unity of opposition parties. The BJP knows what will happen to them in 2019 as they will not come back to power. That is why they are trying to create such an atmosphere and doing all this,” she said. On her meeting with leaders of various political parties, she said, “We know every political leader. I am happy to meet all of them.” Attacking the Centre on Assam’s National Register of Citizens final draft, she said, “People whose names have been kept out are from Bihar, UP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal. We want them to live peacefully. Some of them are living for 100 ears for five generations in Assam. How can you do this to them?” Banerjee yesterday warned of a civil war and blood bath in the country in case 40 lakh people of Assam are left out of the NRC. “I do not know what the BJP wants — a civil water or a blood bath. But we do not want it,” she said today. On a tie-up with the Congress in West Bengal, she said every party will take their own decision. “I cannot interfere in the Congress’ decisions. We believe that the strongest in a state should take on the BJP,” she said. The TMC office in Parliament was abuzz with meetings after Banerjee arrived there today. The TMC chief met Congress leaders Gulam Nabi Azad, and Ahmed Patel, Samajwadi Party leaders Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, YSR Congress leader Vijaysai Reddy, RJD leaders Misa Bharti, Jayprakash Narayan Yadav among others. Banerjee met JD(S) leader Deve Gowda at Karnataka Bhavan and invited him to the rally. She also met Advani at his chamber in Parliament House .”I went to meet him and enquired about his health,” she told reporters. Suspended BJP member of parliament Kirti Azad hailed her as a great leader and said that her efforts to consolidate all opposition parties are “commendable”. The TMC chief later went to the Central Hall of the Parliament to meet other opposition leaders and invited them to the rally. Banerjee also appealed to all the opposition parties to send a joint delegation to the Election Commission against EVM tampering and to press for holding polls on ballots. “All opposition parties should go to EC on this matter,” Banerjee told the leaders. Interestingly, Banerjee extended an invitation for the rally to the Shiv Sena chief through Raut who said the party would take a decision on it. Though a constituent of the NDA, the Sena has been openly critical of the Modi government. (PTI)]]>