Friday, September 30, 2022

Changing tones in opposition

  • Tejashwi says Congress has to allow regional parties in driver seat
  • Sharad Pawar slams Modi for not protecting strategic interests
  • KCR officially announces launching of his own national party
  • Kumaraswamy supports the idea of KCR going national

Since the next general elections are more than 19 months away, one can only watch the direction and velocity of the political winds blowing across the country to guess what is going to happen to our country. Battle lines are yet to be drawn. Some lines are visible while some others remain in the realm of ambiguity intended or otherwise.

Sharad Pawar addressing NCP national convention in Delhi

The newspapers on Monday carried three stories prominently. One was the interview given by Tejashwi Yadav, chief of RJD and deputy chief minister of Bihar, the other was the address by Sharad Pawar in Delhi at the NCP’s eighth national convention. The third is that of TRS chief and Telangana Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) officially announcing the launch of a national party.

Tejashwi, though the youngest of the lot, sounded sensible when he said ahead of 2024 election, the Congress should allow the regional parties to be in the ‘driving seat’ against the BJP wherever they are stronger. He also said, as far as the Congress is concerned, among the opposition parties, it currently holds the highest number of seats. “In my view, the Congress should fight the seats where it is in direct fight with the BJP, but wherever regional parties are stronger as in Bihar, the Congress should let us sit in the driving seat,” he said. Bihar model should be emulated across the country to form anti-BJP front. This interview of Tejashwi was prominently published by The Hindu and The India Express (Mumbai), two important and mostly independent mainstream newspapers.

Kumaraswamy with KCR in Hyderabad

What Tejashwi said has already been in practice whenever and wherever there were pre-poll alliances. The Congress never ever tried to dominate the DMK in Tamil Nadu or RJD in Bihar or SP in UP. Stalin, Tejaswi, Hemant Soren and Akhilesh, the scions of formidable regional leaders, have been in driving seat. It goes without saying that the battle will be between the Congress and the BJP in States like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. Tejashwi also said his father Lalu Prasad Yadav and his leader Nitish Kumar will be meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi soon.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) patriarch Sharad Pawar slammed Narendra Modi and the BJP for their alleged failure in safeguarding India’ strategic interests, conceding space to China at the Line of Actual Control. He also criticized Modi Government for rising inflation. Pawar accused Modi of misleading the country with his claim of “no transgression of India territory. Pawar is a former Defence Minister and he must have his own sources. He said defence experts had clearly stated that India had not been able to recapture the positions it lost in April 2020. “Why are we not able to act assertively in face of Chinese infiltration?” he asked. He said inflation is at its peak and the prices of essential commodities are sky high.

“If you look at the history of Shivaji, he challenged the power in Delhi. Maratha sardars challenged the power of Delhi, today our party’s convention is being held in the same Delhi,” Pawar said. He also accused the government of misusing the central agencies against the opposition parties. Opposition leaders cutting across the party lines, including Sonia Gandhi, Farooq Abdullah, P. Chidambaram etc are under the scanner of the agencies.

Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking at public rally in Kashmir

Meanwhile, in Hyderabad former chief minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy had a three-hour long meeting with KCR who officially announced that he is preparing the guidelines to be followed by the new national party he is going to launch very soon. The presence of Kumaraswamy at Pragati Bhavan is significant. He is shunned by both DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, two most important leader of the Congress party in Karnataka. One is the PCC president and the other is former chief minister who is not prepared yield in favour of Shivakumar. Both of them may have any number of differences, but on the attitude towards Kumarswamy, they are one, as one senior political observer put it. Neither BJP not Congress would like to have a truck with him. His father, former prime minister, Deve Gowda is unwell and Kumarswamy is only a shadow of his father. Their strength is confined to a couple of districts in Karnataka and they are not a force to reckon with. It will be between the BJP and the Congress this time. KCR planning to contest in Karnataka elections is in keeping with his audacity. He would tell everyone that people laughed at him when he launched TRS in 2001 with the sole agenda of separate statehood for Telangana.

There are two more political items of significance in Monday’s newspaper. Ghulam Nabi Azad at his first rally in Kashmir after he got azadi from the Congress, said he would float his own party in ten days, Azad said restoration of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir is most unlikely. “For votes, I won’t mislead people like other parties. To restore Article 370, political parties would need around 350 votes in Lok Sabha and 175 votes in Rajya Sabha for a two-third majority. This is a number no political party is likely to ever get. The number of Congress MPs in Lok Sabha has come down to below 50 seats and if they speak of restoring Article 370, they are making false promise” he asserted. He said statehood for J&K is something that could be tried since it does not need amendment to the Constitution. One can easily guess whose language Azad is speaking and on which side of the divide he stands.

The fifth item is based on what Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav said. He said he would not have anything to do with the Congress or the BSP and that he would like to strengthen his own party.

Now, we have leaders like Sharad Pawar, Stalin, Tejashwi and Hemant Soren of Jarkhand who appear to be practical and who recognize the ground reality that there can be no opposition unity sans the Congress. Even persons like Yogendra Yadav and other NGO leaders who have been walking with Rahul Gandhi have recognised the centrality of the Congress in the given situation. They have been grass root level leaders who have not been aligned to any political party so far in their lives. They are on their own and carry on with their movements. For the first time they made a conscious decision to support the Congress or any other party which is prepared to sincerely fight against the BJP ideology.  There is another category of leaders like Akhilesh whose experience with the Congress was rather bitter and they need a little bit of persuasion by leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar and Nitish Kumar to fall in line with Congress-centric opposition unity.

There are another set of leaders like Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Bannerjee, TRS chief KCR, BSP leader Mayawati and Gulam Nabi Azad. They would like to have nothing to do with the Congress It could be because of the local political considerations or their own ego trips. If these leaders join hands or continue to live in their own imagination, they are sure to divide the opposition vote or anti-BJP vote to whatever extent they can. They could be playing the game which ultimately favours the BJP unwittingly or otherwise.

Kejriwal has no ideological compunctions to oppose the BJP. He is yet to condemn the release and garlanding of the rapists in Bilki Bano case. He has not found fault with bulldozing the dwellings of the dissenters, mostly Muslims,  in Delhi and elsewhere.  Azad shares emotional bond with Modi which was seen when he was given farewell in Rajya Sabha. Mamat Di has been blowing hot and cold. One day she says there are good people in RSS and she goes to a guest house in Darjeeling to talk with Jagdeep Dhankar,  Vice President of India, the then Governor of Bihar with whom she had a running battle, and Himanta Biswa  Sarma, Chief Minister of Assam giving the impression that she is trying to buy peace.  She also swears to finish off the BJP at the same time by joining hands with Nitish Kumar. She is unpredictable and emotional.

The lines will become clearer as days pass on and elections approach. Till then one has to cross his fingers and carefully observe who does and says what. As Tejashwi suggested if the opposition leaders could shed their egos, local problems could be discussed and solutions arrived at. Personal ambitions and ego trips propel regional leaders with enough financial resources to aim at the sky and bite more than they can chew. In Modi’s raj, personal fortunes fluctuate, as we have seen in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Jarkhand. Central agencies have that kind of power.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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