On the day when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met a host of Opposition leaders, in what is seen as an effort to form a united anti-BJP front ahead of the 2024 election, two notes of dissonance emerged. One, the AAP began preparations for the countrywide ‘Make India Number 1’ campaign coinciding with Congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Also, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Om Prakash Chautala extended an invitation to Opposition parties, excluding the Congress and Left, for a grand rally to commemorate his father Devi Lal on September 25..
Mr. Kumar began his tour by dropping in at AKG Bhawan, the CPI(M) headquarters in New Delhi, where he met party general secretary Sitaram Yechury. Emerging out of an one-hour long meeting, Mr. Kumar reminisced about his association with the Left parties. Mr. Kumar reiterated that he is not in the running to be the Opposition’s Prime Minister face. “I am neither the claimant nor do I have desire to be the Prime Minister of the country,” he said.
But at the same time, he argued that his focus will be on uniting all Left parties, regional parties and the Congress. “It will be a big deal if all of us come together,” he said.
Mr. Yechury also dismissed the idea of picking the Prime Ministerial face first. “First, the agenda is to unite all parties, not deciding on the PM candidate. When the time comes, we will decide the PM candidate and let you all know,” he said. Mr. Yechury hoped that the political parties that want to secure and protect the country’s unity, diversity, its unique character and Constitution will work together.
Mr. Kumar then met CPI general secretary D. Raja at the party’s headquarters Ajoy Bhawan. During the meeting, Mr. Kumar stressed on the need to bring together Chief Ministers who are on the fence, like Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. “The current situation demands that all secular democratic forces come together to defeat the BJP and the events in Bihar will have its impact on the political course of the country,” Mr. Raja said.
Mr. Kumar later met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for lunch. Mr. Kumar said that the two Chief Ministers discussed “BJP’s penchant to buy legislators to strengthen its own stables”. The AAP has kept its distance from all Opposition efforts which are co-ordinated by the Congress. In what is perceived as a challenge to the grand old party, Mr. Kejriwal will set off on a countrywide tour as part of his ‘Make India Number 1’ campaign on Wednesday, the day the Congress begins its Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Mr. Kumar also drove down to Gurgaon to meet Mr. Chautala who invited him for a joint Opposition rally on the birth anniversary of his father Chaudhary Devi Lal in Fatehabad, near Hissar in Haryana on September 25. Mr. Kumar accepted the invitation. The list of invitees also include West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, former Karnataka CM Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, and Akali Dal patriarch Prakash Singh Badal. Both Congress and the Left parties haven’t been extended the invitation.
Mr. Kumar also met Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav who is currently undergoing treatment at the Medanata Hospital in Gurgaon, where he also met former U.P. CM Akhilesh Yadav.
JD(U) insists that these meetings were not aimed at any pre-election alliance. “These were merely courtesy calls. Nitish ji wanted to meet and thank the Opposition leaders in person for their support,” party secretary general K.C. Tyagi said. On the issue of exclusion of Congress by AAP and INLD, Mr. Tyagi pointed out that Mr. Kumar began his Delhi tour by meeting former Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “Nitish ji has already said that no meaningful Opposition front can be created without the Congress and our stand remains the same.”