Regional claims garble narrative of opposition unity

Victories in State polls has led the Congress to consider going it alone amid renewed talk of a third front

December 24, 2018 09:55 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 10:00 am IST - New Delhi

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the latter’s residence in Bhubaneswar.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the latter’s residence in Bhubaneswar.

As political parties get ready for the battle for the Lok Sabha in 2019, with several regional parties asserting themselves, Opposition unity seems to be under stress.

Telangana Chief Minister and TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s Monday meeting with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata revived talks of a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front.

SP-BSP assertion

And in Uttar Pradesh, reports indicate that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) are preparing for an alliance without the Congress. Top Congress sources told The Hindu that “the SP-BSP alliance would warm up to the Congress only when they are certain that the Modi government is not coming back to power.”

 

The Congress, however, played down the reports of a U.P. tie-up minus it.

“You will see that in the forthcoming elections, the Congress will put up a formidable front with many other parties to jointly contest the elections and the results will be there for all to see. You need to have patience,” Congress’ national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters at the party’s press briefing.

Asked about the TRS chief’s meeting with Ms. Banerjee, the Congress spokesperson, who became a Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal with Trinamool’s help, said: “If someone dreams of keeping the main Opposition party out, then he is straightaway helping someone.”

The Congress and Trinamool continue to work closely in the ongoing Parliament session and share a cordial relationship but the leadership question is tricky terrain. When the DMK chief suggested Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the Opposition's prime ministerial face, other parties were less than lukewarm.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav described Mr. Stalin’s proposal as individual opinion while supporters of Ms. Banerjee cite her track record as Chief Minister to project her as a contender.

The Left parties, on the other hand, suggest a post poll mechanism to settle such issues.

Going alone

Caught between the Trinamool and the Left parties in Bengal, both of whom were part of an Opposition meeting chaired by UPA chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhi on December 10, the Congress president now seems to be preparing to go alone in Bengal where there are 42 Lok Sabha seats.

Last Saturday, Mr. Gandhi, at a meeting, is said to have asked his Bengal chief Somen Mitra to prepare for a solo battle. After the party’s recent victories in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, there are many who argue on similar lines.

"If we had tied up with the BSP in MP and Chhattisgarh, then the narrative would have been that Congress was unable to beat BJP for 15 years but an alliance defeated the BJP,” said a senior Congress leader.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, who has argued against any alliance with the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi, took to Twitter to argue that party could win on its own, citing the bypoll victory in Jharkhand.

“In Kolebira, Jharkhand, @INCIndia candidate is leading in by more than 4500 votes... Two important facts:- 1) Congress has never won here in the past. 2) We are contesting all alone-without alliance or support!” he tweeted on Sunday.

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