The long-awaited Opposition meeting hinges on the Congress putting its house in order in Karnataka and having a Chief Minister in place. The main aim of the meeting is to settle the disagreements to ensure that in every Lok Sabha constituency it is the “BJP versus one Opposition candidate”.
The swearing-in in Karnataka will be the first platform to bring all the Opposition leaders together and will serve as a precursor to a larger gathering.
Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar is already building the ground to hold the meeting in Patna, proposing it as a neutral venue, especially for the regional parties, as opposed to Delhi, which was the venue of an Opposition meeting hosted by the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. As per sources, the heads of over a dozen Opposition parties have already agreed to attend the meeting. No date has, however, been picked.
“Nitish ji is in touch with all Opposition parties and as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged him, the meeting will be held in Patna,” JD(U) secretary-general K.C. Tyagi said.
Patna, he said, also has greater political significance as it acted as the epicentre of the JP movement that gave birth to coalition politics in the country.
The Opposition leaders agree that with the Congress’s emphatic victory in the Karnataka Assembly election, at least for the time being, the doubt over the Congress’s position as the leader of the pack has been erased, with even staunch critic such as Ms. Banerjee conceding the position in its favour.
“There is willingness to engage, and the Karnataka Assembly results have only served to deepen it,” senior RJD leader Manoj K. Jha said.
The formula that the Opposition is aiming for remains tricky, especially in States where the contest is not bipolar. While it may not be difficult to achieve in States such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh or even Gujarat where the Congress is stronger than the other Opposition parties, the course won’t be smooth in States such as West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab and Maharashtra where multiple Opposition parties would be vying for the same slot. This, many agree, would have to be worked out at the State-level.
Regardless of the meeting, the Opposition leaders are in constant touch with each other. On May 15, CPI general secretary D. Raja met Nationalist Congress Party patriarch Sharad Pawar in Mumbai.
“We both agree that the electoral strategy for the general elections will have to be framed at the State-level keeping in mind the political situation there,” Mr. Raja said.