Altered chemistry, strategy define Opposition unity 2.0

As the top leadership of anti-BJP parties prepare to meet in Patna on June 23 to draft version 2.0 of Opposition unity, it is becoming clear that their chemistry in 2023 is vastly different from that of their previous avatar in 2018.

June 16, 2023 08:17 pm | Updated June 17, 2023 09:07 am IST - NEW DELHI

As the top leadership of anti-BJP parties prepare to meet in Patna on June 23 to draft version 2.0 of Opposition unity, it is becoming clear that their chemistry in 2023 is vastly different from that of their previous avatar in 2018. File

As the top leadership of anti-BJP parties prepare to meet in Patna on June 23 to draft version 2.0 of Opposition unity, it is becoming clear that their chemistry in 2023 is vastly different from that of their previous avatar in 2018. File | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

As the top leadership of anti-BJP parties prepare to meet in Patna on June 23 to draft version 2.0 of Opposition unity, it is becoming clear that their chemistry in 2023 is vastly different from that of their previous avatar in 2018.

One of the most obvious differences is that the effort to bring all anti-BJP parties has started far in advance of the general election this time around. In 2018, the confabulations only began in November when Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee flew to Delhi to meet Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. The first meeting was held on December 10 and could not really transcend beyond political optics in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, barring an alliance in Uttar Pradesh between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Opposition is waking up to the challenge six months earlier this time around, giving them ample time to come up with a more cogent strategy.

Also read |The ‘Opposition unity’ caution 

Changing roles

The second key difference is that the Congress was the fulcrum of all talks in 2018, though the ground work was done by both Ms. Banerjee and Telugu Desam Party supremo Chandrababu Naidu. This time, Mr. Naidu is keeping his distance from the Opposition bloc and Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has adopted his role. In 2023, with many parties questioning the Congress’ position as the leader of the pack, the party is at pains to explain why the Opposition bloc is incomplete without their presence, though their successive victories in Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have bolstered their claims.

‘Utopian idea’

There is a deeper divergence between the 2018 and 2023 approaches: the Opposition is going into the 2024 battle with the clarity that the BJP cannot be countered in every seat across the country. Though the public rhetoric may be centred around one common candidate against the BJP in every Lok Sabha seat, there is a clear internal realisation that this is a utopian idea which is feasible only in a handful of States like Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

“We will be concentrating on 100 winnable seats where we can reach an understanding to pool our resources and have a common candidate,” a senior Opposition leader said.

Common messaging

With this awareness, the efforts are geared toward working for a common campaign. “Common messaging will be primary goal of the Opposition unity. Each Opposition party have their own campaign machinery that includes party cadres, social media teams and spokespersons. We have to work together, to ensure that we build a common strategy to attack the BJP, which then will be relayed by each party’s machinery so that the message percolates to the voters rather than getting limited within each party’s echo-chamber,” another senior Opposition leader explained.

The June 23 meeting is the first step for this pragmatic agenda. Opposition leaders have vehemently denied any plans to have a joint Prime Ministerial face or a common minimum programme just yet.

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