By Kushal Jeena
Buoyed with the recent Congress victory in three key Hindiheartland states, a united opposition has formulated a common strategy to defeat the ruling National Democratic Alliance in the next year bound general elections and resolved to avert a split of votes in its camp during the polls.
The vows came later this week in a meeting of opposition leaders where almost all the bigwigs in opposition barring Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, the chiefs of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party respectively, were in attendance. The opposition leaders also identified issues to counter BJP and chalk out a framework for opposition unity ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“The meeting focussed on identifying issues that will be important for the people and can form the bedrock of the Opposition’s campaign against the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the coming months,” said a senior opposition leader.
Two major issues the opposition top brass have identified included agrarian distress and allegations of corruption against the BJP-led government at the centre that would be key poll planks. The meeting assumes significance because the leaders of 21 political parties who occupy opposition benches in the Parliament have come together irrespective of their political compulsions. They have also joined hands not only because the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as a serious threat to their existence but also to save the institutions of the country which Modi has systematically been destroying.
The meeting was held on the very same day when Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel announced his resignation. The chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee raised the issue and suggested that opposition leaders should meet again to call on the President in the backdrop of RBI governor’s resignation. Interestingly, Aam Adami Party, a new entrant in Indian politics, for the first time joined an opposition rank.
“From CBI to RBI, institutions have become total disasters; it is matter of great shock. The BJP is behaving like a dictator and there should be a campaign against this rule. The RBI governor has resigned because he wanted to protect the institution. There is a consensus among opposition parties that we won’t allow assault on institutions like RBI. This has to stop,” said Rahul Gandhi, the president of India’s grand old Congress party.
First, coming together of the opposition parties and BJP’s defeat in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later have been giving sleepless nights to both the Prime Minister Modi and the BJP president Amit Shah, who is dubbed by a section of the media as a master in winning elections. It has been proved time and again that the BJP has always faced electoral drubbings whenever opposition parties were united because in that case anti-BJP votes don’t get split. The recent poll victory in three Hindi heartland states has further cemented the efforts of unity among the opposition rank and files as it would pave the way for other non-BJP and non-Congress parties, which are currently sitting on the fences to come forward and join the opposition bandwagon.
“India needs a truthful government that does not propagate falsehoods and does not make bogus claims, that steadfastly follows Constitutional values and conventions in letter and spirit, that respects the autonomy of the institutions, and that will banish the current all-pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation. A case in point is the sinister attack on the autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India by Modi government that has led to unceremonious exit of RBI governor. We deprecate the systematic attack by the government on India’s economy through a select band of government nominees arbitrarily dictating the monitory policies and compromising RBI’s institutional integrity,” said a joint opposition statement released at the end of the meeting that lasted for more than three hours.
The attempts to forge a rarely displayed unity among opposition parties were also made several times in the past particularly after the Narendra Modi led government came to power and started behaving as if it is here to stay forever. It was always the Congress that took initiative to bring opposition parties on one platform to counter BJP. This time such an initiative was taken by none other than Chandra Babu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and chief Telugu Desam Party, a regional outfit that was a part of ruling conglomeration till recently and entered into an electoral alliance with Congress to fight recently concluded assembly elections in newly formed state of Telengana after walking out from the NDA.
With the Modi government proving a failure on all fronts of governance particularly on the issues relating to the economy of the country, the unity among the opposition parties is what the people looking for because if current trend of dismantling government institutions and putting financial health of the country at stakes are not put to the rest and current state of affairs in the Indian economy is not improved, it will take the country decades back
It is the Constitutional obligations of a responsible opposition to put in place a government that is committed to faster economic growth, which is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. The successful meeting of the opposition parties seems all set to pave the way for creating such a situation in the country ahead of next year Lok Sabha elections.
The results of three states that went to polls later last month and early this month are evident of such a happening. The immediate declaration of support to the Congress governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh by BSP and SP could be seen as acceptance of bigger role of Congress party by the smaller parties. The coming together of the BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh now appears to be certain. The leaders of the two key parties in India’s most populated state deliberately didn’t attend the meeting of the opposition parties as they were reluctant to take Congress on board in Uttar Pradesh. The scenario is now changed and the Congress party with three impressive victories under its belt is now on the driving seat.
“We call upon all liberal, progressive and secular forces to join us in our battle to save the Constitution, to protect parliamentary democracy, to preserve the freedom of think, speak and write as free people, to strengthen the bonds of our unity while celebrating our diversity and strengthening our Constitutional republic and people’s livelihood that this RSS/BJP government is ousted,” the Congress said in a statement.
In order to further consolidate the unity within the opposition ranks and file, the leaders of all non-BJP parties should also work in tandem and in a coordinated manner inside both the Houses of Parliament during ongoing winter session to put the government on the mat on the issues confronting common people. A similar meeting of the opposition leaders is also on the cards after the end of the current session of Parliament where leaders would discuss and unfold their next plan of action on the ground.
The major tasks before the leaders of the opposition parties are forging alliances and finding ways to avert split in the opposition votes. The stumbling blocks in the way of unity are those smaller and regional parties, which are in direct contest with the Congress in many states. In a bid to resolve this issue, Sharad Pawar, the leader of Nationalist Congress Party has suggested need base alliances among the opposition party in the states than having a broad-based federal opposition alliance.