Will the Opposition unite at Nitish Kumar’s beck and call?
By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: The Janata Dal (United) supremo and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s appeal to the Congress Party to take fresh initiative for Opposition unity against the backdrop of the current ongoing assembly election process in three northeastern states, has become the talking point in the political circles.
The states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland are witnessing the assembly polls, where the Opposition is completely divided which is going as an added advantage for the ruling BJP, which is desperately trying to retain power in these three states.
In Tripura, where elections were held on February 16, 2023, the Bharatiya Janata Party had faced a four-cornered contest with the Trinamul Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and the Congress Party as well as the local tribal parties fighting against each other.
In Meghalaya and Nagaland, where assembly polls are due on February 27, the situation is the same with the BJP pitted against Trinamul on one side, Left and Congress on the other and strong sub-regional parties are also in the fray.
With just 13 months left for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024, the so-called Opposition unity remained a myth rather than a reality. Ever since the opposition got battered in the 2019 Lok Sabha, there were no serious efforts on the part of the Opposition to forge unity. And whatever efforts were made for opposition unity during the last three years remained a non-starter. This is primarily because of the weakening of the Congress Party and the rise of several regional forces on the scene.
Nitish Kumar’s appeal seems to be deliberate, in view of the important three-day AICC plenary session of the Congress Party in Raipur later this week from February 24. Further, the Congress today is leading from the front with regard to nailing down the BJP government, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his alleged links with businessman Gautam Adani in the wake of the Hindenburg Report.
Nitish urged the Congress leadership to take a decision as quickly as possible and call all major opposition parties for talks about where and with whom they should have the alliance to contest the next Lok Sabha polls.
The Bihar Chief Minister made it clear to the Congress, “If you accept my suggestion then they (the BJP) will go below 100. If you do not then what will happen is up to you and others (other parties) to think about it. I am not bothered”. Nitish also stressed that he has “no personal ambition other than uniting the country against the wrongdoers and getting rid of them. It is for you all to lead. I am ready to spend my life”. He said that the opposition has been waiting for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra to get over. A broad-based unity could be forged and he met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and told both of them what to do ahead. Nitish was speaking in Patna at a convention named ‘Save the Constitution, Save Democracy’, where several party leaders of Congress, JDUJDU, Rashtriya Janata Dal, CPM, Communist Party of India and others were present.
The Congress and other opposition parties are demanding for Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the allegations of fraud and stock manipulation by Adani Group, but the government is tight-lipped and apparently completely backing Adani, there is going to be a big tussle which may be intensified in the coming days. Before the Lok Sabha polls, there are going to be assembly polls in five major states this year. Namely, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. Since it is going to be a straight fight between BJP and Congress in Karnataka, a victory for Congress in this state would certainly set the ball rolling for the Opposition unity for the general elections.
However, in the overall context of present-day politics, there are many regional parties, which are unwilling to go with the Congress for any sort of ragtag coalition before the elections but may broadly agree for seat adjustments at the local level. The Aam Aadmi Party, Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Trinamul Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party and a section of the Left Front and others are having their calculations. The Left Front is divided between the Bengal line and the Kerala line. But the ground reality is that no fruitful opposition unity is possible without the Congress. The BJP dismissed Nitish Kumar’s claim as daydreaming and added that Nitish is cleverly pitching himself as a Prime Ministerial candidate.
Political analysts feel that a clear picture would emerge of the Congress Party’s approach and strategy only after the coming All India Congress Committee plenary in Raipur. It is said that the Congress has been in constant touch with the parties like Nationalist Congress Party, JDU, Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Janata Dal and others. The Congress feels that fundamentally there are six states Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and MP, will decide the overall fate of the BJP. Further, the Congress feels that in around 250 seats, there is going to be a direct fight between Congress and BJP.