Parties opposing the government from the Left and the Right of the political spectrum are hoping that the issue of prices at the heart of the call for Monday's “Bharat Bandh” will pay rich dividends in the form of opposition unity in the coming days in Parliament.

But they also know there are some gaping holes in this unity that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance could continue to exploit successfully.

The parties led by the Left and those by the Bharatiya Janata Party under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance have been at pains to make the point their calls for the bandh the same day was the result of entirely separate decisions. They were “not together” on this, but were espousing the same cause of the people — rise in prices which will be spurred further by the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products and deregulation of prices in this sector.

Elated at the “most successful Bharat Bandh for more than 30 years,” they are hoping for better, even if somewhat off-public-gaze floor coordination in the coming session. “The Left is with the people, we are also with the people. I have not said the Left and the NDA are together,” Janata Dal (United) president and NDA convener Sharad Yadav said. “But unity seen today [Monday] on the streets will lead to political unity of action in Parliament,” he emphasised, while not hiding the fact he was the link between the Left and the NDA in the coordination for the bandh.

“Not a political issue”

BJP president Nitin Gadkari indicated that prices were not a “political issue,” on which there could be differences; neither was it related to the caste, region or religion. The parties had taken up people's concerns and focussed on the failed policies and bad governance of UPA-II.

However, in the past the Congress was successful in weaning away potential opposition unity partners. The BJP and Left positions coincided somewhat on the India-United States civil nuclear agreement in the last year of UPA-I. But by the showdown time in Parliament, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moved a trust vote on the issue, the Congress had weaned away the Samajwadi Party.

When a cut motion was moved by the BJP in the budget session earlier this year, the ruling party managers were again successful — this time they got the SP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs to walk out of the House rather than support the opposition-sponsored motion.

In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party did not join the bandh but has given a separate call for a bandh on Tuesday. The SP and the BSP cannot be together on any issue, and this is a problem the Congress will necessarily exploit, admit BJP leaders.

In Bihar too the political lines between the rivals — the JD (U) on one side and the RJD and the Lok Jan Shakti Party alliance, on the other — are clearly drawn. There is no way the RJD and the LJP would join a bandh supported by the BJP and the JD(U). To show their own solidarity with the people on this issue, they have jointly given a call for a bandh on July 10.

This leaves more than some room for the Congress to manipulate and prevent total opposition consolidation against it. And the parties of the NDA and those led by the Left know this, but are hoping the joint but separate efforts put in on the bandh will lead to better coordination in the future.

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