Friday, March 24, 2023

Mission impossible

Efforts to unite the non-NDA parties into a viable alternative to the ruling BJP-led NDA are still continuing and so far there has been no clear development to suggest that the bickering parties have finally settled down and agree to meet in order to give a final touch to the proposed grand national alliance. With over 400 days left for the 2024 general election, hectic parleys have begun both at the incumbent BJP and the opposition level to analyse and prepare the road map. BJP has drawn up plans for 400 plus seats in 2024 while the opposition are still trying to stitch up a united opposition that is appearing to be easier said than done. Amidst calls to catalyse opposition unity, Congress said it will sit and deliberate the blueprint at the party’s AICC plenary session, which is scheduled to be held from February 24 to 26 in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. It does not take much to see that any plan to take on the BJP at the national level must gather in some way the 63 per cent voters who did not vote for BJP or its allies in 2019. There are many issues and views over the efforts to bring all opposition parties together to fight a common foe and with every effort, the gap seems to be widening. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge made an untimely and illogical claim that Congress will head the proposed coalition and which also means its ‘chosen’ leader for whom it has suffered huge embarrassments over the years, would automatically be the next prime minister. However, regional parties like AAP, BJD, TRS/BRS, JMM, TMC and RJD have performed better against the BJP in the state elections vis-a-vis the Congress and hold the ground that Congress does not enjoy the monopoly over the main opposition party status and it is not the default party number two in the country. For instance, regional satraps like Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, Telangana’s KC Rao and Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee today do not want to play second fiddle to the Congress at the national level, and are instead pushing their claim to be the alternative to the BJP. Unfortunately for Kejriwal, Rao or Mamata, the Congress is the only party even today which has a pan-India presence. It continues to be the pole opposition party and is the strongest claimant to lead any joint opposition against the BJP. Furthermore, statistics indicate that Congress in 2019 won more seats than DMK and TMC put together; was runners up in 209 LS constituencies which is almost equal to number of seats where the combined 15 opposition parties were runners up. Also votes secured by Congress, in absolute terms, was more than non-NDA parties. The next general election in May 2024 is still some way off. However, 2023 will be a dress rehearsal for the final act, with assembly elections in no less than nine states. Congress party ended a five-month cross-country “unity march”(Bharat Jodo Yatra) on September 7,2022 and ended in Srinagar, Kashmir on January 29,2023. All said and done, Congress is unable to win approval of other parties because of its persistence or insistence that Rahul will lead the opposition. This is a problem since Rahul is still trying to learn the ropes and struggling to evolve from a good person to a politician with desired traits for a national leader but India cannot wait forever. That is why even in 2024 and unless something happens, nothing can stop Modi and the BJP.

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